Wednesday morning’s shootaround, hours before the Golden State Warriors and Charlotte Hornets face off at 8 p.m. in the Spectrum Center, was absent one notable face: Steph Curry.
The Warriors’ star point guard wasn’t shooting 3-pointers with his teammates. Instead, he stood off to the side in a walking boot, still recovering from the right ankle sprain he sustained late in Monday’s game against the Pelicans. Curry is expected to miss at least two weeks with the injury.
And while Warriors coach Steve Kerr would obviously love to have the two-time league MVP on the court , there’s still a silver lining of sorts to be gleaned from Curry’s absence.
“In a weird way, it’s a good thing for our team,” Kerr said. “Big picture-wise over the next couple of weeks, it’s an opportunity for our team to get better because we have to.
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“We have to look at it as that opportunity.”
In a way, the team’s current predicament, which it’ll test for the first time against the Hornets, resembles last year when Kevin Durant missed extended time with an MCL sprain and bone bruise. The team rebounded, got better and more efficient without him, and when Durant returned in the postseason, it elevated the Warriors from elite to invincible. They only lost one postseason game en route to their second NBA championship in three seasons.
The Hornets will be the first team to face the Curry-less Warriors, and Charlotte too will be without one of its key faces. The team announced coach Steve Clifford will step away from the team indefinitely to deal with health issues. Associate head coach Stephen Silas will fill in for Clifford.
Now instead of a contest between All-Star point guards, the Hornets’ Kemba Walker figures to match up with backups Shaun Livingston and Quinn Cook. That’s a boon for Walker on the defensive end of the court, but offensively, Livingston is a more-than-capable defender.
So far this season, Curry is averaging 26.3 points and 6.6 assists.
Durant acknowledged that the Warriors might not look how they always do against the Hornets, but agreed with Kerr that it could be beneficial for the team.
“We’re going to have to play a little different,” Durant said. “We have to figure out how to kind of plug in what we’ll be missing from Steph. But if we do it as a group, collectively, everybody’s going to gain confidence, feel comfortable playing in these situations.”
The one thing the Warriors can’t replicate is the experience of Curry playing in front of his home crowd. Curry grew up in Charlotte with his father, former Hornets player and current broadcaster Dell Curry, and attended nearby Davidson before being drafted in the first round in 2009. Curry visited his alma mater on Tuesday for Davidson’s win against VMI.
“It’s his one trip home a year, and he always looks forward to this game,” Kerr said. “My first thought is I feel bad for Steph.”