Last season's NBA playoffs served as a coming-out party for Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, who didn't even make the All-Star Game despite being well on the way to breaking the record for three pointers made in a season.
Curry is clearly a major factor in the fate of the team this season, which tips off Wednesday, though it is safe to say the 25-year-old will catch no one by surprise this time around. A preseason poll of the league's general managers showed a perception of Curry that does not fit in with how he sees himself.
The poll, released last week, had Curry ranked as the sixth-best shooting guard in the league. Coach Mark Jackson and Curry himself both view the fifth-year player as the floor leader, however.
“I'm a point guard that likes to shoot the ball,” Curry said. “So if that's what they're getting at, then so be it. I'll play the position the way I play it and not worry about how people view it — who thinks I can't play traditional point guard style of play. That's not my game. I play the way I play, I'm going to continue to get better at it.”
The success the team had last season — advancing past the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs only to be elminated by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round — did at least one thing for the Warriors in Jackson's mind.
“We are not guessing we can do something now. We know we can do it,” Jackson said. “We've added guys that have playoff experience that have a body of work that makes us better. It's interesting to think it can work for you or against you, but one thing I've realized, watching these guys continue to come in a month early, bodies in shape, right mindset, holding each other accountable — they didn't lay on what we were able to accomplish last year.”
While the team may have overachieved last season in the eyes of many who picked the Warriors near the bottom of the Western Conference, this season, they don't have the advantage of low expectations.
The team lost one of its crunch-time scorers in Jarrett Jack, a free agent who signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the addition of swingman Andre Iguodala shored up the defense in a way that has Curry looking for higher marks this season.
“We have the pieces to make a strong move for a championship,” he said. “Defensively, we're so much better than previous years. We've got guys that can score and guys that can make plays with the ball. As a team, if we can figure out how to be consistent on [the defensive] end and make plays and be disciplined throughout the course of 48 minutes, we're going to be in good shape. Because of how powerful we are offensively.”