Balls: It's safe to jump on Curry bandwagon again 

Shame on you!

And you and you and you and you!

After a pair of less-than-stellar performances in the Western Conference semifinals, the Stephen Curry bandwagon had empty seats already. Admit it — some of you were the same people who chanted “M-V-P!” when the greatest Warriors player since Rick Barry worked his magic the last few months. This may be the Instant Gratification Generation, but one person even suggested to Balls that he give the award back, for God’s sake.

Sure enough, Curry was back to his old self in Game 4 on Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies, and not just because of his impressive stat line — 33 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals. He took the game by the throat from the first jump ball this time, and his team didn’t let go the rest of the way in a 101-84 victory to even the series.

“We slowed the game down, made the right play — the simple play — especially in the first half to get ourselves going,” Curry said. “We could have played better in the second half, but we can’t be too picky about this kind of win.”

Rather than carry the weight of Warriors world on his shoulders, Curry got his teammates involved at the outset — he went scoreless in the first eight-plus minutes. Then he laid down the hammer in the second quarter, when he scored 14 of his team’s final 20 points.

“His mindset changed,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Early in the game, he wasn’t shooting a lot. He was just trying to get the ball moving, which was our focus. He was really patient early, and then the game came to him. Once we moved it a couple times and he got an open look, he got into a better rhythm. That’s the whole point.”

The series will move back to Oracle Arena for a crucial Game 5 on Wednesday night, and Warriors fans will back on board again.

HOLD THAT LINE: Balls lobbied for an eight-game suspension for Tom Brady in the Deflategate scandal, but it can live with four games in addition to a $1 million fine and the forfeiture of two draft picks under this condition: The NFL doesn’t cave in and reduce the punishment.

Remember, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was a staunch supporter of Commissioner Roger Goodell in the Ray Rice case.

Now Kraft may hold out for arbitration, we’re told, and the players union has his back. But if an arbiter wasn’t required for other players, then what makes Brady so special? Unfortunately, we know the answer.

FAB FOURSOME?: Are we about to witness another golden age of golf? Sure looks like it.

Four of the top 10 ranked players are 27 or younger — Rory McIlroy (No. 1), Jordan Spieth (No. 2), Jason Day (No. 8) and Rickie Fowler (No. 9). The better the rivalries, the better the sport, and there’s a lot of potential for that in the years to come.

“Golf is in a very, very good place now,” golf broadcaster Roger Maltbie told Balls before his induction into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame. “For the longest time, we were wondering where the good, young players would come from. Now we have a glut of them, which is fabulous. The future is bright for the PGA Tour right now.”

Golf doesn’t need Tiger Woods (No. 133) for the first time in a long time, not that the old version wouldn’t make it that much better.

ROGER THAT: Can’t think of many local athletes who have had better careers on and off the field than Maltbie’s in the last five decades. He won five PGA Tour events before his television career put him over the top.

“For me, it was life’s great mulligan,” Maltbie joked. “I got injured and playing wasn’t a viable option, then out of left field came the opportunity to get into television. As it has turned out, I’ll be better-known and have made more money through broadcasting, and I never spent one minute thinking about doing that. That’s pretty good.”

BLATT’S ALL, FOLKS: If Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt didn’t have one foot out the door already, then LeBron James all but pushed him out completely after Game 3 in the Western Conference semifinals.

After James drained a buzzer shot to even the series, he admitted that he “scratched” the play Blatt had called in the huddle. Far worse, Blatt was about to call a timeout his team didn’t have only seconds earlier. If assistant Tyronn Lue hadn’t intervened, a technical foul would have been the result. “Yeah, I almost blew it,” Blatt fessed up.

It’s obvious Blatt has been in over his head from the start, but James deserves his share of blame as well. He bolted the Miami Heat last summer with almost no knowledge of who this Blatt guy was at the time.

It’s imperative that the coach and his best player are on the same page — hey, this is the NBA, you know — and James should have demanded input on the decision. After all, his good friend John Calipari was and is only a phone call way.

JUST ASKIN’: You mean James didn’t get a single vote for the Coach of the Year award?

THE CITY GETS IT RIGHT: San Francisco is the first city to prohibit smokeless tobacco at sports venues — AT&T Park included — and that’s just the start, hopefully. A bill that would ban the stuff in minor- and major-league ballparks throughout California already has legs.

“A step in the right direction,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy called the ordinance per the team website. “I think it can be a good thing. It’s going to be hard to enforce. It’s a tough habit to break.”

If not for the players association, the habit that killed Tony Gwynn among others would have been phased out years ago. Major League Baseball pushed hard for the ban four years ago, but the union wasn’t much interested in something so trivial as health issues.

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? (A compliment?!?) Send them to pladewski@sfexaminer.com and you may get your name in the paper one day.
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