Ailene Voisin: Warriors’ Stephen Curry proving experience matters

Ailene Voisin
Ailene Voisin

When NBA Commissioner Adam Silver begins his fullcourt press to raise the age requirement for players entering the league – and he has cited this among his priorities – Stephen Curry is his ideal prop.

The Warriors guard, who made his first All-Star appearance last weekend in New Orleans and leads his team into Sleep Train Arena tonight, is an engaging personality, a poised, mature performer, and a willing participant in numerous civic and charitable undertakings. He also has a baby face loved by television cameras and grandmothers, and easily cropped onto billboards and print ads.

None of this is a revelation. Curry was thoughtful and engaging and mature long before he launched his first three-point shot in the NBA. And it’s no coincidence he is among the dwindling number of NBA players who read a few college textbooks before jumping to the pros.

The 6-foot-3 veteran, who will be 26 next month, attended Davidson for three years before entering the draft in 2009. That year, the Kings – in another of the questionable drafts conducted by the previous front office in its final years – selected Tyreke Evans at No. 4, bypassing Curry, Ricky Rubio, Jrue Holiday, DeMar DeRozan and Ty Lawson.

The issue isn’t a lack of talent, as Silver reiterated throughout All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, but rather the effect the one-and-done phenomenon has on colleges and NBA franchises. Coaches at both levels for years have complained that allowing players to turn pro at 19 – or one year out of high school – destroys college programs and hurts the quality of play at the next level.

“It is my belief that if players have the opportunity to mature as players and as people, for a longer amount of time, it will lead to a better league,” Silver said.

As was abundantly clear throughout the weekend, the demands on athletes aren’t decreasing. An NBA career has expanded from 82-game regular seasons to longer preseasons, international competitions and appearances, playoffs that include seven-game matchups, and strength and conditioning routines that last all summer. The concept of an offseason is a distant memory.

And for every superstar (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant) who skips college or opts out after his freshman year, there are dozens of players whose skills and mental preparation would be enhanced from fine-tuning in college, the NBA Development League or overseas. NBA coaches can’t stop griping about the deterioration of fundamentals. Evans, for instance, didn’t invent the death-by-dribbling offense; Amateur Athletic Union programs and their coaches are the real culprits. And is there anyone who doesn’t believe Kings center DeMarcus Cousins wouldn’t have benefited from another year or so at Kentucky?

Whether Silver can persuade the National Basketball Players Association to raise the age limit to 20 (or older) remains to be seen, and realistically will not occur until the collective bargaining agreement is revisited in 2016-17.

But Curry helps make his case. While his Warriors are only 7-9 in their last 16 games, he’s widely regarded as the league’s best deep shooter and one of its most appealing players.

“He has a midrange game, he has a long-range game,” James said Friday. “He can pass, rebound, does a little bit of everything. He should have been here last year.”

Though Curry seemed less turnover-prone than a year ago when he shared ballhandling duties with Jarrett Jack, his deft handle and ability to dribble close to his body enable him to create and release some of the quickest, purest jumpers in the game; the net barely ripples when the ball slips through. His clever ball fakes are exquisite, and he converts soft, high-arcing floaters with either hand. He also entered the All-Star Weekend averaging 9.0 assists, with his tap-ahead pass on fast breaks becoming a featured element of his offensive repertoire.

The side benefits, by the way, include a leap in endorsements and international exposure. Curry was among the most sought-after players (by media and fans) throughout All-Star Weekend.

“Jumping around, doing things you want to do, it’s pretty fatiguing,” he said. “I enjoyed it, even though I am a little tired. As a team, we have a vision. This (post-break) will be a good test to see if we can play the right way. We’re going through a tough, tough patch, and hopefully, we make the adjustments.”

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