Posted Aug 17, 2012 11:42 AM
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The training camp essentially started Wednesday, a little less than seven weeks before real training camps open.
Stephen Curry returned from his Charlotte home to work at the Warriors' practice facility for the first time since April surgery on his right ankle and was joined by one of Golden State's backcourt reserves, Charles Jenkins. Curry was back again Thursday, this time going against swingman Kent Bazemore, who is trying to make the team as an undrafted rookie. Another session is scheduled for Friday before Curry will fly home to North Carolina.
This is the start of the eye-test portion of the evaluation for Golden State, so it is understandable that general manager Bob Myers and coach Mark Jackson would watch Curry take the repaired leg out for a spin. The real training camp, beginning Oct. 2, will offer a much better read. The exhibition games will be another step. But enough is at stake that Curry-Bazemore is an important scouting mission.
Curry has been knocked from the lineup five different times in the last two seasons, not counting problems in exhibition play, and the Warriors have an Oct. 31 deadline looming to decide on a contract extension for him. So every viewing party matters.
Once Curry gets through the scrutiny in training camp (beyond judging how he and second-year guard Klay Thompson will mesh), the gut call comes: Do the Warriors do the new deal before opening night tips and trust the ankle will hold up once and for all? Or should they use 2012-13 as the proving ground and get into the contract next summer?
Tens of millions of dollars are on the line, with a short evaluation period in which to make a very risky call.
"I've talked to Bob," Curry said after the Wednesday burn that lasted about 90 minutes, in addition to his therapy. "He's expressed that they want me as a part of the future. Obviously it's a business decision, an investment, and they have to protect themselves as well. I don't know what that'll mean and exactly what they'll offer. But hopefully they see how hard I've been working in the summer to get back and that I have a different optimism than I've had going into each year. I'm ready to go.
"They've seen me work out a little bit now. Knowing that we went into the ankle in April and saw there was no structural damage, no red flags that say, 'Hey, he's not going to be the same player ever again' -- all those things kind of add up to me being a good investment piece for the future."
The Warriors will talk contract ahead of Oct. 31. But what is not clear is whether they will be courtesy conversations, designed to let Curry know he is wanted yet minus the serious money to close the deal.
Golden State can always pass now and come back to the contract talks in July, a comforting safety net. But if Curry stays healthy and plays well -- a real possibility for a point guard who averaged 17.5 points his first three seasons while shooting 47.3 percent overall and 44.1 percent on 3-pointers -- it raises the chance that another team goes for the steal with a bloated offer sheet. The Warriors could, and almost certainly would, match. But ask the Trail Blazers how that can go (see: Batum, Nicolas).
Reaching an agreement now means the Warriors are banking that the Steph Curry voodoo dolls and needles have been collected from the fates that cost him 37 games last season and eight in 2010-11 (both times due to a right ankle injury). Waiting until after this season risks another team driving a truck through Golden State's salary structure.
It's a crossroads for the player as well. If Curry considers the October offer too low and has another problematic season, the money will shrink. If he takes the security and the deal by Halloween and then flourishes in an offense loaded with scorers capable of putting defenses in scramble mode, he will have sold himself short.
"You're playing chess with it," Curry said. "If they were to take that approach to wait and I've had a great season, hopefully it would spark some interest across the league for the future and the price would drive up. If I were the Warriors, I'd offer a reasonable amount and sign me up now."
He wants to get something done before the regular season begins. He has recovered enough from the April 25 surgery that he has been cleared for every activity except contact five-on-five. No pain, no real setbacks, he said Wednesday. Curry remains on schedule to be 100 percent by opening night.
Nonetheless, this remains an important August.
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