published Monday, May 6th, 2013

Wiedmer: Curry gives NBA its big star power

Davidson's Stephen Curry, 30, drives around App State's Marcus Wright, 24, during their game at the McKenzie Arena in this 2009 file photo.
Davidson's Stephen Curry, 30, drives around App State's Marcus Wright, 24, during their game at the McKenzie Arena in this 2009 file photo.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The greatest performance I've ever witnessed atop McKenzie Arena's basketball court took place on Jan. 28, 2009. That's the night the Chinese juggler known as the Red Panda put on the kind of dazzling and daring performance that has you oohing and ahh-ing for the rest of your life.

Of course, that was also the night that some cherub-faced assassin named Stephen Curry swished a 75-foot shot against UT-Chattanooga just at halftime buzzer.

And had Red Panda not taken the court just as Curry was leaving it following that shot, well, his heave would have easily become the greatest individual act I've ever seen inside Bigger Mac.

But that doesn't mean the former Davidson College star peaked that night against the Mocs, despite exiting with 32 points. In fact, his best is probably still ahead of him, possibly beginning tonight against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals.

That's when Curry and his Golden State Warriors teammates will continue to attempt to stun the entire NBA in the best-of-seven series after shocking Denver last week.

How good was Curry against the heavily favored Nuggets? He averaged 24.3 points and 9.3 assists for the six-game series. That assist total is also tops for the first round of the playoffs.

"As soon as he gets the ball in half court he's in range," said Curry teammate Andrew Bogut.

Added Denver coach George Karl of the 31 points Curry scored in a pivotal Game 4 win, including 22 in the third period: "He decided he could make one from 30 feet. Boom. He has this incredible rhythm. It's magic."

The whole country witnessed that magic during the 2008 NCAA tournament, when Davidson lost 59-57 to Kansas one game from reaching the Final Four. It was the Jayhawks' tightest victory on their way to the national championship.

But when Curry came back to Davidson the following year, the whole country also saw his vulnerability -- fragile ankles that have cost him more than one surgery and considerable time away from the court.

But not this season. Not only did Curry set the NBA record for most 3-pointers made in a season with 272, he also hit 11 of 13 from behind the arc one night in torching the New York Knicks for 54 inside Madison Square Garden.

Beyond that, his 45.3 percent accuracy from treysville is the best ever for those on the top 10 list of most 3-pointers made in one season.

No wonder Warriors coach Mark Jackson said of his backcourt of Curry and Klay Thompson, "In my opinion, they're the greatest shooting backcourt in the history of the game."

That may seem like a pretty bold statement for a couple of guys who had never won a playoff series together before defeating Denver. But in light of younger brother Seth's just-completed career at Duke (he and Stephen own the NCAA career record for most combined points by two brothers) and father Dell's 16-year NBA career as a dead-eye shooter -- he retired with an 11.7 scoring average and a 40.2 percent average from the 3-point line -- it's easy to proclaim the Currys the best-shooting family ever.

"Stephen's shot is just like his dad's, a quick release and deadly accurate," said Tic Price, the Memphis head coach and UTC assistant whose playing career at Virginia Tech ended the season before Dell Curry's began.

"Dell had such long arms and quick hands. People underestimated him defensively. He was really good."

A reporter asked Price if a game of H-O-R-S-E among the Curry men could drag on like a premiere cricket match, lasting for days at a time, the net under such siege that it probably had to be changed as often as socks.

"It could," he said. "But even though Stephen might be the best shooter we've seen, and Seth's pretty good, too, I might have to pick Dell. He'd definitely give him a run for his money."

Warriors coach Jackson once challenged Stephen one-on-one. Curry was 12.

When the two were interviewed by ESPN on Sunday, Jackson said of those games, "Be honest, I cooked you."

But asked if they'd played of late, since Jackson took over as coach of the Warriors and Curry is now paid to play, the coach said with a grin: "I don't know if you've heard this, but I was a pretty smart player. I retired undefeated against him, because I never played him again after he was 12."

Curry's 25 now and -- with apologies to Western Carolina product Kevin Martin, who got 25 for the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday -- easily the best player produced by the Southern Conference since UTC's Gerald Wilkins.

And if he ever learns to hit 3-pointers while riding a unicycle and spinning dinner plates on a stick with his off-hand, he might even make me forget Red Panda.

Contact at Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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