Three years ago, no one quite knew what to make of Stephen Curry. He was a rising star with brittle ankles, and a one-of-a-kind off-the-bounce rocket-launcher who had never been tested in the playoffs.
Now, he's the face of the league -- its top jersey-seller, reigning champion and MVP, and a lock to win the award again. Curry discussed the Warriors' journey in a one-on-one with ESPN.com as part of the unveiling of a new partership with Degree, one of Curry's sponsors, who outfitted him with new biometric senses to track his movements. What follows is an edited transcript of our chat.
You have to answer this question honestly: have you guys talked among yourselves explicitly about 73 wins? I've heard some guys are openly using it as motivation ...
We've probably openly talked about it twice -- just how we're gonna go about the season. We get asked about it a lot. That sparks those conversations.
Forget us in the media. I mean behind closed doors, away from us.
The media can spark it, but it's mostly coming from Coach [Steve] Kerr and Coach [Luke] Walton, and some of the leaders of the team. It is an accomplishment that would be amazing. We know how hard it is, having gone through this first half of the season playing pretty much perfect basketball. We've found so many different ways to win.
You have one real loss, basically. You missed one loss, Draymond missed one, and that game in Milwaukee was almost a schedules loss.
It's crazy. That leaves the Detroit game. We've laid an egg once. To avoid that happening multiple times to this point, it's pretty crazy. We're gonna hopefully stay in the moment, and focus on how we get better. Our priority is health, and playing our best in the playoffs. But if we wind up in late March or early April with a shot at it, there's not many opportunities you'll have to go at 73.
I wonder if Kerr's friends from the Bulls will ask him to sabotage it.
Nah. He's been all over the map when it comes to his basketball career. For him to be the coach of the team that broke that record would mean a lot to him. The ultimate goal is obviously win the championship, but 73 wins -- there's a reason people still talk about that 1995-96 Bulls team. They accomplished both. That would be special.
Is there a gimmick defense for your pick-and-roll with Draymond Green that you guys are waiting to see? You've had traps, switches, everything. Is there one thing where you say, "Man, I wonder when a team will try that"?
I'm not that creative. I don't know if there is anything out there. It's just a matter of how we execute. We've seen a lot of different defenses, and that's made both of us better players. Teams switch it up, and keep us guessing. But with me and him just being able to play-make, with so many different weapons around the court, it's tough. We'll keep running it.
When did you realize how good Draymond was? Kerr and [Warriors' GM] Bob Myers told me during the Finals they had him penciled in to play 12 or so minutes per game before David Lee got hurt. Were you behind the scenes, agitating for him to play more?
Nah. At the beginning of last year, I knew he was good. But when David Lee got hurt, and he had to step into the starting role -- the impact he made right away, for a guy to be ready for that opportunity, and run with it, there's usually a reason someone can do that. And knowing he was just in his third year at the time -- he was gonna get even better.
That's honestly when I started to understand his value all over the floor, not just playing defense.
There isn't anyone quite like him in the NBA.
He's so versatile. We used to always say he was a guy whose impact didn't really show up on the stat sheet, but now it does.
There is that famous story about how, after Memphis beat you to take a 2-1 lead in the second round last year, Draymond invited you out to have some food, and maybe a drink or two was consumed ...
Oh, yeah. For sure, there was.
Adults are allowed to do that.
Did you talk ball? Or avoid it?
Everything but basketball. We went to Blues City Cafe in Memphis, had some catfish, some ribs, a couple of drinks, and enjoyed ourselves in the midst of a loss.
How unnerved were you guys at that point? I remember both you and Klay [Thompson] passing up shots, pump-faking when you were open, and thinking, "My god, Memphis has them rattled."
It wasn't clicking. We didn't have our usual flow, as Coach Kerr would call it. For whatever reason, Memphis found a way to muck up the game. We had to shake it out, and get back to who were. We showed our resilience rolling off three straight, and doing the same thing against Cleveland.
That has made us such a more mature team going into this year -- having gone through that.
When you were having issues with your ankle, and the team was on the verge of a shake-up -- they eventually traded Monta Ellis -- did you ever think you might be the one to go?
No. I remember the day it happened. We were in Sacramento. I was already out, nursing an ankle injury. We were warming up for that game, and I actually went out and got some shots up. I was close to coming back. I walked back into the locker room, and Monta was dapping up everybody. He and Ekpe Udoh were getting traded to Milwaukee.
Coach [Mark] Jackson pulled me aside and basically said, "This is gonna be your team, your time to shine. Take advantage of it." It gave me a lot of confidence to know that when I got back healthy, it would be up to me to do that.
I won't make you say his name, but there are rumors your team might pursue a certain star free agent. You guys are 41-4, or 42-4, or whatever. Do you hear those rumors and think, "Wait a second. How much better could we possibly get? Why change anything?"
Not in those terms. I hear that stuff, and it's human nature to be interested in it. I'm very comfortable with our team, and obviously being 44-4.
Sorry, 44-4. I've lost track.
I do it too. They ask me all the time, and it's not to be disrespectful, but I just really don't know how many wins we have anymore. In the NBA, you're never immune to rumors and trade rumors, and free agency stuff. That's a good lesson for us: No matter if you're 44-4, or 4-44, it's always gonna be a topic of conversation. We can't control any of that. We can only control how strong we are as a group.
The NBA is so fluid. We just want to enjoy what's going on right now, instead of talking about what might be.
Two years ago, I asked you if you cared about those SportVU cameras in the rafters, and you said you weren't really interested in motion-tracking stuff -- that it might get in your head. Now you're doing all this cool stuff in the Degree MotionSense, tracking the speed of your shot release and all that.
Have you changed your mind? Have you learned stuff about your body from all this technology?
Yeah, with all the different wearable technology, and the way we're analyzing how players move -- it's valuable information when it's used the right way. I try not to think about it when I'm on the court, like, "Oh, my release felt half-a-second slow that time." Or: "I didn't create enough force on that crossover."
But when I'm working out in the summer, being able to analyze the different ways I move, and making it more efficient and explosive -- that all has provided dividends, for sure. It helps. But when you're on the court, you want to be free. You want to react to what's in front of you, and not be all clogged up in your head.
Should you be in consideration for the Most Improved Player award, or have you graduated out of that discussion?
That's in the hands of who votes, and what they value.
No, really. It's about what they value. I have tried to elevate my game. I said all summer that I wanted to be better than I was last year. I feel like I am. So, it might be unprecedented for me to be in that conversation, but that was a goal of mine -- to improve. I didn't know what that would mean statistically. So I guess, why not?
Are the Warriors a jump-shooting team?
Oh, yeah. I'm comfortable with that, too, no matter what Charles [Barkley] says. We're comfortable because of the way that we get our jumpers. We move the ball. We have guys that can make shots. We're a jump shot-making team. We have the talent, and we find different ways to get guys open.
It's not just going out there and jacking shots. There's a method to the madness.
During the Spurs game last week, I noticed they made a clear rule to stick with you behind the 3-point arc in transition, even if they allowed in a dunk in doing that. Have you noticed teams doing that more?
Yes. The last four games, it has happened two or three times each game. People ignore all their defensive principles in transition. They end up just confused about which way to go. Draymond might be coming down in transition, and I'm running the wing, and a big man will run the lane, and you just see the moment of decision for whoever is in that position: Do they take away the dunk, or the 3?
And they are starting to cater to the 3. That is pretty entertaining at this point. I'm not even expecting to get the ball anymore. It almost confuses the guy that is passing. As a player who has an IQ for the game, you know the guy running the the lane is gonna be covered, and you throw it to the wing. To see it the other way is counterintuitive.
Speaking of the Spurs: in 2013, you took them to six games in the second round. You almost went up 0-2 on the road. By the end, you were so banged up, Bob Myers told me it was unclear if you or Andrew [Bogut] could even have played in Game 7.
I always looked at that series, even at the time, like a landmark NBA moment -- and much more so than your first-round win over Denver. You messed with the Spurs! You and your off-the-dribble 3s were officially a problem. That felt like a big deal. Did it feel that way inside the team, or was it just a basketball series?
No, that was a huge confidence-builder, for sure. The Denver series was so high-paced, we were just having fun out there playing. And then you go face the Spurs, who were really championship-caliber. And in San Antonio, we had such demons down there. We hadn't gotten a win down there in the regular-season in like 18 years.
We were up, what, 16 late in the fourth quarter of Game 1, and lost. We came back and won Game 2, which showed crazy resilience. It gave us so much confidence. Yeah, we had injuries galore. But we fought. It gave us an identity as a squad. We knew when we got back the playoffs, we were gonna be a problem.
The next year, we had a battle with the Clippers -- seven games.
Yeah, Andrew was out for that series. But every part of that journey was a steppingstone. When you're playing the Spurs, with what they are, and what they were back then -- that meant something.
Every year at All-Star, there is a guy who is The Guy that season. Four years ago, it was Jeremy Lin. Damian Lillard had the year where he did every event. This year, it's you. You are the face of the league right now.
Are you worried about spreading yourself too thin, being pulled in too many directions? Do you have a plan to avoid the post-All-Star hangover?
It helps that we get a whole week now. That Monday practice after All-Star was never any fun. I'll bring my family. We have a pretty good plan of attack of how we want to enjoy the weekend, because there is fun stuff to do. I have personal ties to Toronto. I'll be able to relax Monday through Wednesday, get refreshed and kinda have the best of both worlds.