Steph Curry talks NBA playoffs, the end of his MVP run and keeping in touch with Obama
Warriors star seeks Finals redemption, but first up are the Blazers
Stephen Curry knows that the NBA MVP award is landing in someone else’s hands after he owned it for the past two years. But don’t feel bad for the 2015 NBA champion, as his life is pretty darn phenomenal on and off the court with the Golden State Warriors.
Curry is playing for the NBA team with the best regular-season record, home-court advantage throughout the playoffs and three fellow NBA All-Stars, including Kevin Durant, on his side. The NBA’s 3-point-shooting leader still has the league’s hottest-selling jersey and is in a commercial with tennis legend Serena Williams. With the NBA playoffs beginning Saturday, Curry talked to The Undefeated about who should win the 2017 NBA MVP award, his relationship with Durant on and off the court, the 2016 NBA Finals, advice from Serena, his buddy Drake, contacting former President Barack Obama and the first-round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers.
“We’re definitely going to go through a tough challenge,” Curry said of the Blazers. “They’re playing their best basketball right now, and they’re playing with a lot of confidence. As we know, it doesn’t matter what happened in the regular season.”
How have you adjusted to Durant on the court?
It’s been great. Obviously, there is a learning process and a transition period that we went through earlier in the year. On Christmas Day [a loss at Cleveland], there was a lot of conversation that came out of that game. But ever since then, we’ve both been ultra-aggressive and, for a lack of a better term, exist together on the floor and really have a good balance to what we do. K.D. is doing it, Klay [Thompson] is doing it, Andre [Iguodala], Draymond [Green] and all the other playmakers, we’ve all really figured out the flow of how it’s supposed to look on both ends of the floor. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to showcase it where it really matters.
What do you think about the NBA MVP debate? You’re giving up your trophy now.
Apparently. I’m glad it’s not like the Masters green jacket. I don’t have to give my actual trophy back.
Do you have a pick or projected NBA MVP winner?
Just thinking about the season as a whole and all the spectacular things we saw from Russ [Westbrook] to James [Harden] to Kawhi [Leonard] to LeBron [James] to Isaiah [Thomas], myself, K.D. before he got hurt, you can’t really make a bad decision on who to vote for. It’s just a matter of how you define MVP. That seems to kind of change from year to year just depending on your preference and what you enjoy watching on the court, what matters most to you in that kind of sense. I said [Harden] probably a month ago on what Houston was projected to do going into the season. But, obviously, I’m not voting on it.
It will be interesting to see how it unfolds. What sucks about it is you have to wait so long now [NBA awards show is June 26] for the guys who are in that conversation.
When you do reflect on the playoffs last year, what comes to mind?
It’s hard to not think about anything but the Finals. It was such a powerful moment just realizing you’re so close to getting it done. For us, we’ve done a really good job of turning the page and just focusing on this year to prepare ourselves, knowing what it takes, having won one and having come up short on one. Nothing is guaranteed. Just how important every possession is. How important is your mentality going into the playoffs? It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the regular games. It’s all defined in these next 2 1/2 months.
It’s kind of surreal that we are back in the playoff season. I’m excited about it. I’m not looking past Round 1 [against Portland].
What bothers you most about losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals in a series that went a deciding seven games after holding a 3-1 lead?
The last six minutes of Game 7. You feel like you could go back and do a couple things differently to get your team over the hump. It’s crazy. Honestly, Kyrie [Irving] made a key [late] shot. That helped seal the deal for them, win it and have a comeback. Had that shot not gone down for them or the ball bounced a different way a possession or two before … it’s just crazy how that defining moment changes the narrative of everything.
I’ve only watched the game twice. I only think about things I could’ve done differently to help my team win, knowing I gave everything I had and obviously came up short. I want to try to redeem myself.
How do you think your body was during the 2016 Finals?
It was at a point where I wasn’t really thinking about it when I was playing. Coming off an injury, if you get to that point you’ve got to consider that a win regardless of what percentage I was. I don’t ever use that as a crutch for what happened.
Can you expound on the changes that were made after the loss at Cleveland on Christmas?
After the Cleveland game we talked about our play calls and certain things we are trying to do differently. I didn’t get many shots up. We just had a conversation about how do we balance what made us successful in years prior and how do we highlight and accentuate what K.D. does really well and add that to the fold. And really, just not overthink in playing basketball.
How would you describe your friendship with Durant off the floor since he arrived?
It’s been great. I played with him before he arrived with the Team USA stuff. When you spend eight months together, you learn a lot about how you handle adversity, what makes you tick, how you like to have fun. … Granted, in all honesty, I’d like to spend more time with him off the court. But with how crazy our lives are with families, it’s kind of hard to do that.
But when you get on the road in certain situations and even in the locker room, just understanding the vibe we want to create and just how we as a team can build that camaraderie so when we get on the floor we know we have each other’s back. That’s something you can’t really fake and you can’t really force. It has to really happen kind of organically. We’ve figured it out.
It is often forgotten because the Warriors have won so much in recent years that you had some dark days with this franchise in your early seasons. (Curry went to the NBA playoffs for the first time in his fourth season with Golden State.) Looking back, do the team struggles at the start of your NBA career help you appreciate the Warriors winning today?
I appreciate it 100 percent. I sat with K.D. on the bench [Wednesday night in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers] in the fourth quarter, and that particular topic — and this is no slight — but the Lakers not making the playoffs and going on vacation [Thursday] … he asked me how many years did I miss the playoffs before all of this started. The first three years we had win totals in the 20s and 30s every year. The crazy thing is, I’m the only one left from that era.
I have an appreciation for all that goes into winning at a high level, not taking the playoffs for granted, let alone chasing championships. But literally it was a long shot that we were going to make the playoffs. Klay [Thompson] experienced it during the lockout year, but Draymond’s [Green] draft and beyond, those guys have only experienced playoffs. I do have a place in my memory of those days that always makes me appreciate what I’m doing right now and to let all of ‘Dub Nation’ know don’t forget. Never taking winning, playoffs and championship runs for granted. We’re not that far from the dog days.
What is celebrity life like for you now? It seems like you’re having a lot of fun off the court.
There are a lot of things I’ve been able to experience that are pretty awesome. The hardest part is obviously separating what I do for a living and family life, especially with two girls. I’m trying to raise them with the right perspective on things and understanding that they are regular 1- and 4-year-old girls who have so much promise. You try to protect their world as best you can. That has been the biggest challenge.
Other than that, the doors that basketball has opened for me has been pretty amazing. I just have to bring [Warriors security director] Ralph [Walker] with me wherever I go now.
You did a credit card commercial with Serena Williams. What was she like?
She was cool. Down-to-earth. We had a good time filming that spot. Obviously, when you are in the presence of true greatness like Serena, I wouldn’t say I got a little starstruck, but I appreciated that moment to work with her.
Any words of wisdom you took from her?
We talked a little bit about the business side of stuff, her perspective on things and how she balances her training life and all the off-the-court responsibilities she has. She was right in the middle of a rehab window and starting back to her training regimen for the season. I got some good tidbits on that. Obviously, it’s two different worlds, but some of the same challenges.
Have you talked to Obama since he left office?
I haven’t. I think he is in Ireland somewhere writing a book. But I hope to stay connected to him now that he has a little bit more free time on his hands.
How does one reach out to Obama?
That’s a good question. I know one of his assistants’ numbers who used to work for the White House. I don’t have his number directly. But I can get in touch with him.
Can you talk about your friendship with the rapper Drake?
We’re friends. We talk on a day-to-day basis. We don’t get a chance to hang out as much as we want. Our schedules are all that. But whenever we get together, it’s kind of like family. There is the Toronto connection with my wife. The O.V.O. [October’s Very Own] Team. We always have a good time. We’re going to try to do some projects together at some point.
Are you going to rap with him?
No, no. I’m going to stay in my lane.
Do you and Drake talk about dealing with haters?
Yeah, we talk about that all the time. That’s a whole other conversation. Just the expectations and the similarities to the rap game and the NBA. It is nice to hear that other people are dealing with some of the same things you do.