The moment Mark Jackson saw Stephen Curry return to the court in September for the first time since the point guard’s most recent right ankle surgery, he had an epiphany.
Not the kind that comes to Jackson when he preaches from the pulpit for his ministry. Nor the sort he shouts from the sideline as the Warriors’ coach. Instead, he just kept quiet and smiled about the possibilities.
“You just saw like, ‘Man, that’s what I’m talking about. I can really be a better coach this year,’” Jackson said, chuckling.
The truth in Jackson’s joke, as even he admits, is that nobody is questioning his coaching abilities now in large part because nobody is questioning Curry’s health.
The Warriors (17-9) are off to their best start since the 1991-92 season, when the team began 21-8 behind Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin. Golden State enters tonight’s game against Curry’s hometown Charlotte Bobcats playing like a playoff-bound team in the Western Conference.
That’s no small feat for a franchise that has missed the postseason 17 of the last 18 years. Neither is it a mild milestone in Curry’s comeback, not after his troubled right ankle sidelined him for most of the last year and had some wondering whether he could ever be the point guard who looked so promising in his first two seasons.
“Missing games and not having complete confidence that my ankle would hold up was tough,” Curry said. “To be at this point right now playing and helping the team win, it definitely feels great to just be able to focus on games.”
Warriors general manager Myers took the risk of signing Curry to a $44 million, four-year contract extension through the 2016-17 season hours before the season opener at Phoenix. Curry had even sat out the final two exhibitions as a precaution because of ankle issues.
It was the final day Golden State could sign Curry to an extension or he would become a restricted free agent next summer. While the risk of injury is no different now than it was then, Curry’s confidence has helped put everybody around him at ease.
“Every day that goes by and nothing transpires, I feel better,” Myers said.
Curry is averaging career-highs of 19.9 points and 6.3 assists per game. He has started all 26 contests and is making a strong case, along with co-captain David Lee, to be Golden State’s first All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997.
All this after Curry averaged career lows of 14.7 points, 5.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds while missing 40 games during last season’s lockout-shortened 66-game schedule, repeatedly spraining, tweaking or rolling his right ankle.
“The point guard is the engine of a team,” Myers said. “To have one that’s running smooth, it makes a big difference.”
NOTE: The Warriors are hosting a pregame Holiday Food Drive on Saturday against the Los Angeles Lakers. Fans are encouraged to bring five or more non-perishable food items in support of the Alameda County Community Food Bank.