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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Just as he had feared, Stephen Curry’s sprained right ankle did not heal in 24 hours. Just as he had hoped, Curry will not stay on the sidelines for too long.
The Warriors have ruled Curry out for at least two weeks after an MRI taken on Tuesday confirmed a sprained right ankle that he suffered in the last minute of Monday’s game in New Orleans. That puts a damper on Curry sitting out when the Warriors (19-6) play Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets (9-13) before a hometown crowd.
According to the Warriors’ timetable, Curry will also miss games in Detroit (Friday), a homestand against Portland (Dec. 11) and Dallas (Dec. 14) as well as a road game against the Los Angeles Lakers (Dec. 18).
It seemed fitting Curry begins his rehab in his hometown. That is when Curry first developed his underdog mentality as the under-recruited guard that led Davidson to an Elite 8 appearance during his sophomore season. Curry provided a visual reminder of that story when he attended Davidson’s game on Tuesday against VMI.
"I would never change my experience for what it is. I got so much confidence playing at Davidson," Curry told Bay Area News Group this week. "Coach [Bob] McKillop, from even before I stepped foot on campus, instilled so much positivity into me to reach my potential. He saw it. I wouldn’t be the person or player I am had I not gone there in that particular situation. All of that set me in my way and gave me an amazing support system throughout my early pro career. It’s a special story."
And it is a story that still applies to Curry’s latest challenge.
Even as he moved around the locker room on crutches and a walking boot on Monday night, Curry remained in high spirits. He jokingly lamented his latest injury could not golf with his father in Charlotte. Before he spoke with reporters, Curry shared laughs with Draymond Green and Kevin Durant as they inquired about his well being.
His positive outlook foreshadowed the Warriors’ long-term timetable on Curry’s recovery has more to do with their conservative approach than the seriousness of Curry’s injury.
The Warriors privately expressed relief that the MRI indicated that Curry’s right ankle is stable and structurally intact. After needing crutches and a walking boot after the game on Monday in New Orleans, those around Curry expressed optimism he may not need crutches by Wednesday. And though the Warriors will have a heavy task in absorbing Curry’s absence after averaging a team-leading 26.3 points, the Warriors are mindful of the long-term benefits.
Curry has time to clear his mind after appearing in three consecutive NBA Finals. He also has time to further heal his right ring finger, which has been bandaged with wrap in the past week. Meanwhile, the Warriors can further develop their depth.
The Warriors’ other future of Hall of Famers in Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will have bigger scoring roles without the benefit of Curry’s shooting presence and floor spacing. With Warriors center Zaza Pachulia listed as questionable with a sore left shoulder, the Warriors may rely further on backup center JaVale McGee, rookie forward Jordan Bell and third-year forward Kevon Looney.
Warriors veteran guard Shaun Livingston will start at point guard for the foreseeable future. Warriors second-year guard Patrick McCaw will receive more playing time, though he is listed as questionable after suffering a nose contusion during Monday’s game in New Orleans. And Quinn Cook will be available against Charlotte after the Warriors recalled him from their G-League affiliate in Santa Cruz.
As for Curry, he already had faced concerns about his durability after spraining his ankle multiple times and needing two surgeries to treat it. The Warriors still signed Curry to a four-year, $44 million contract extension in 2012, a deal that eventually turned into a grand bargain as Curry emerged as the league’s best shooter and top point guard. It marked yet another example of Curry becoming an underdog, an issue that made Curry ponder if he still had that mentality.
"Yes and no," Curry said. "It’s part of my DNA. I’ve always been that way. But the circumstances and success changed."
After all, Curry has since won two NBA championships and two regular-season MVP awards. He just became the eighth player in NBA history to reach 2,000 career 3-pointers in the least amount of games (597).
"If I look at someone now and say I feel like an underdog, they’d probably look at me sideways with the things I’ve been able to accomplish on my team," Curry said. "So I wouldn’t say I always have something to prove. But I always have an edge."
Even as the Warriors, Curry included, has battled complacency this season, Kerr recently noticed Curry exhibiting that edge. It happened in the first play of the game on Sunday in Miami when Curry attempted a left-handed dunk.
"It may not be the greatest of choices, but I like it," Kerr said. "That’s his edge. He wants to prove to people he’s the best. He’s not the best at dunking. But he’s the best at a lot of other stuff."
That usually applied to Curry’s shooting and leadership qualities. Yet, he sounds aware of guarding against those skills fading while monitoring "all the different talented point guards that are out there." So instead of sitting out to heal his right ring finger, Curry played and shot with his finger wrapped until he became used to it. With Curry’s season-long 38.1 percent mark from 3-point range marking a drop from his career average of 43.5 percent, Curry considered it a season-long goal to improve those numbers.
"If you want to be on top and stay on top, that’s really all the motivation," Curry said. "If you’re not doing your job on the floor, you’re going to get exposed really quickly."
Curry found that out the hard way when he made what he called a "dumb play." Curry tried to steal the ball from New Orleans forward E’Twaun Moore. Instead, Curry twisted his right ankle after stepping on Moore’s shoe. Perhaps that just leaves Curry again to overcome another challenge after doing so many times already.