By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) If you can’t just enjoy watching Warriors star Stephen Curry keep topping himself with feats of basketball ridiculousness, why bother watching sports?
Seriously, the desire of some to downplay what we’re seeing is coming from a place I just don’t understand. Oscar Robertson, Phil Jackson and Isiah Thomas have all been compelled in the last few days to dismiss Curry’s barrage of made shots from all distances and angles as some kind of modern parlor trick, instead of admiring it properly.
The “Big O” stands for Obtuse at the moment, with Robertson saying in a radio interview that coaches aren’t defending Curry properly, defense in general is worse than back in his day and that if he were guarding Curry this wouldn’t be happening. And get off his lawn.
So back in the rough-and-tumble 1960s and ’70s, they apparently had a way of stopping shots launched from between 28 feet away from the rim and half court? As of three days ago, Curry had attempted 49 such shots this year alone and made 33 of them. That’s 67.3 percent. And he’s at 36 percent from beyond 39 feet. I’m not sure how one coaches against that, then or now.
Jackson tweeted “Never seen anything like SCurry? Remind you of Chris Jackson/Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who had a short but brilliant run in the NBA?”
Actually no, Phil. We watched both players, and we even have the capability of comparing them objectively.
Abdul-Rauf averaged 14.6 points and 3.5 assists per game for his 586-game NBA career, shooting 44.2 percent from the floor and 35.4 percent from 3-point range. In his best single season in 1995-96, Abdul-Rauf averaged 19.2 points on a career-high 39.2 percent from behind the arc and had 6.8 assists per game. He never averaged 20 points in a season.
In his 472 games, Curry averages 22.1 points and 6.9 assists on 47.7 percent overall shooting that includes an otherworldly 44.6 percent from 3-point range. This year — at the same age of 27 as Abdul-Rauf was for his best season — Curry’s destroying the NBA with a 3-point percentage of 46.8 percent and 51.5 percent overall shooting while averaging 30.7 points, 6.6 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals in only 33.9 minutes.
One of those is brilliant, the other isn’t even close.
Thomas also thinks Curry is a product of generally poor perimeter defense, apparently believing that this deficiency appears wherever Curry is on a given night as if by mere coincidence, no matter the opponent. What are the odds? It’s amazing! He just keeps happening to show up at exactly the times the defense is having trouble stopping him. Curry must just be lucky, I guess.
Performances like this are the whole point of watching the best in the world do what they do, anywhere in pro sports — the records, the moments, the reaching for historical comparisons, the waiting for what’s next.
Anybody incapable of appreciating it is missing out.