Back in February, Stephen Curry was asked about the play that caused the injury that forced him to miss 58 games of the 2019-20 season. The memory was clear in his mind.
It was Oct. 30 and Phoenix center Aron Baynes decided to try and take a charge with Curry headed in his direction. The resulting collision caused Curry to try and break his fall with his left hand. As a result, Baynes landed directly on it. The hand was not only broken, but doctors determined there was also nerve damage.
Curry had two surgeries to repair the fracture. The first was Nov. 1 in Los Angeles. The second was in December, at which point pins were removed from his hand.
“When you have 280 pounds laying on your hand, it’s bound for something like that to happen,” Curry said in February. “It’s responding, it’s just a slow process.”
That process was scheduled to end Thursday when Curry finally returns to the Warriors lineup against the Toronto Raptors.
Of course, there is nothing to be salvaged from this season. The Warriors were 13-45 with Curry out and have been in a long descent to the bottom of the NBA standings. They are now 14-48.
But there are 20 games to play and curious national television audiences to satisfy and there has never been any doubt Curry would return once cleared medically.
“I’m getting used to what the new normal is,” Curry said in February. “It definitely feels different than the right (hand). But you try to get to the point when you’re playing basketball, you don’t think about it — whether it feels all the way same or not, it doesn’t really matter, as long as I’m not worried about the things I’m trying to do, the strength part of it and how it bounces back the next day after pushing it in contact stuff.
“But to answer your question, it is going to feel different. Anybody who has had surgery knows it takes a long time to get back to true normal. Functionally speaking, where I’m not out there on the court thinking about it, that’s where I’m trying to get it to.”
The original plan was for Curry to play last Sunday, but Warriors didn’t think he has enough preparation time. On Monday, he participated in a G League practice with the Santa Cruz Warriors.
“This has been a long, long haul for Steph,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said on KGMZ-FM 95.7 The Game. “He loves playing so much. I’m happy for us, I’m happy for our fans, but I’m happiest for Steph because he’s going to be back playing basketball and doing what he loves.”
Of course, the Warriors have also been without Klay Thompson this season because of the ACL injury he suffered during the NBA Finals last spring. Kerr told ESPN he finds comfort knowing both will likely benefit from the time off.
“Five straight trips to the Finals, just the feeling of being wiped out, Steph and Klay have both gotten to get away, not under ideal circumstances, neither one has been able really to enjoy themselves physically because of their injuries, but just to step away from the fight, I think has been important,” Kerr said. “And I think you’ll see Steph rejuvenated. And then same thing with Klay when he returns next season.”
Curry averaged 20.3 points, 6.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds in the four games he played before the injury. He needs eight three-pointers to join Ray Allen and Reggie Miller with at least 2,500.
This will be Curry’s first time on the floor with Andrew Wiggins, who was acquired by the Warriors from Minnesota Feb. 6 for guard D’Angelo Russell, guard Jacob Evans and forward Omari Spellman.
“I’m very excited. I feel like everybody is,” Wiggins told The Associated Press. “He’s the type of player that single-handedly is going to come and change the way everyone plays for the better. So, I’m excited. He’s a game-changer.”
It couldn’t have come at a better time. EastBayTimes.com reported Warriors local television ratings are down 66 percent from last year. It’s clear Warriors fans have been bored and disengaged. Having Curry back should help remedy that.
“I think it’s important for Steph to play without all the guys we’ve lost who are not gonna be back next year,” Kerr said in reference to Kevin Durant, Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala. “It’s gonna be a different look for him, and I think it’s important. …It’s important for him to feel the difference because it feels different for us.”