Kings guard Seth Curry didn’t have much use for the scouting report on the opposing point guard before Saturday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors.
“I know everything about him,” Curry said.
Those hesitation moves and step-back jumpers? Long before the Warriors’ Stephen Curry used them to victimize NBA defenders, he honed them against his younger brother in the backyard of their home in Charlotte, N.C., in games of one-on-one that sometimes got so heated the boys’ father, longtime NBA guard Dell Curry, came outside to officiate.
As Steph raised his game to MVP levels in recent seasons, Seth watched from a distance, trying to carve his own path to the NBA. When Steph led the Warriors to their first NBA title in 40 years this past June, Seth attended the clincher, ducking inside Dell’s postgame hug with Steph to put an arm around the family’s newest champion.
Despite their one-on-one battles, the Curry brothers had never met in an official game – until Saturday, when the Warriors visited Sleep Train Arena to play the Kings. Seth calls his older brother “my biggest fan.” To have Steph suiting up for the other side, he admitted, would be “a little different.”
“Whenever I’ve watched him in a game, I’ve kind of been on his side, cheering him,” Seth said. “Hopefully I get to match up against him. But it’s going to be a little weird.”
brothers’ competitive streak
Usually, Dell Curry said, he would let his young sons work it out themselves when their one-on-one competitions grew too intense. But he kept an eye on the games and said they brought out a competitive streak in both boys “that was evident when they were very young.”
“Neither one wanted to back down,” Dell said in a phone call last week. “Especially little brother.”
Two and a half years younger than Steph, Seth was always a little smaller – he’s now listed at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds to Steph’s 6-3 and 190. Seth said he “had to pull some tricks to win the games” when he and Steph faced off, but he held his own.
“That’s where I got my competitive fire from,” Seth said. “Just having to match up with (Steph) – not only in basketball, but in everything.”
From the backyard, their paths diverged. Steph starred in college at Davidson and went seventh overall in the 2009 draft to the Warriors. Seth chose Liberty and transferred after one season to Duke, where he averaged 17.5 points per game his senior season and led the Blue Devils to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Steph said that tournament run is still his favorite moment of Seth’s career, though the reason is partly bittersweet. Seth played much of that season with a stress fracture in his right shin, and Steph said “his toughness really showed that year” as a result. But Seth needed surgery after the season ended, and no NBA team took a chance on him in the 2013 draft.
dominating in D-League
So began a winding two-year road to Seth’s current role with the Kings, for whom he’s a backup combo guard trying to play his way into the rotation. He spent much of the past two years toiling in the NBA Development League, compiling gaudy numbers that indicated he was too much for the league’s defenders.
In his D-League debut for the Santa Cruz Warriors in 2013, Seth scored 36 points. Last season with the Erie Bayhawks, he averaged 23.5 points per game on 48 percent shooting and made 48.2 percent of his three-point attempts. He tasted the NBA on 10-day contracts with Memphis, Cleveland and Phoenix, but none became long-term homes.
Still, Dell said that he, Seth and Seth’s agent figured it would take two years after college for Seth to make his NBA dream a reality.
“He just stuck with the plan that was laid out,” Dell said, “worked his tail off in the D-League, waited for his opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Seth watched Steph emerge as one of the elite players in the NBA, cementing that status this spring with the Warriors’ championship and an MVP trophy.
“(Seth) wasn’t envious of his brother,” Dell said. “He fully supported his brother.
“He’s not a complainer,” Dell said of Seth. “He knew it would take him two years to get a shot. He did everything he needed to do. If (Seth’s career challenges) did (bother him), he didn’t let on. I didn’t see any of that.”
At this year’s NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Seth caught the attention of the Kings with his perimeter shooting, point-guard play and 24.3-points per game. On July 22, the Kings signed him to a guaranteed two-year, $2 million contract with a player option for the second year. Seth called his brother with the news and said Steph had a concise message for him: “ ‘Congratulations,’ and, ‘Welcome to the league.’ ”
“I’m proud of him, because he’s had a tough road,” Steph said last week. “I’ve never played in the D-League but have talked to guys that have been there and know how tough it is to play at a high level consistently just with the way of life – the travel and going across the country, rotating rosters – and all that is really difficult.
“But he found a way to challenge himself every day, get better. And in summer league, he really proved he’s a much better player than when he was coming out of college, an NBA player and somebody that can help an NBA team. He’s got an opportunity now in Sacramento to continue that journey.”
Collison praises Seth
Seth did not play in two of the Kings’ first three games this season, but his playing time may already be increasing. He played a season-high 15 minutes Friday night in a loss to the Rockets and gave the Kings’ second unit – and the crowd – a jolt of energy with eight points, including two three-pointers that displayed his own quick release.
“I give him a lot of credit,” Kings guard Darren Collison said. “He’s been working on his game since he’s been here, and for him to come into a game like that, hit some big shots and give us a spark, it’s big-time from him. I know he can play this game – we all know he can play. He just needs the opportunity.”
Seth spent the summer working out with his brother and said that message – more than any technical pointer – resonated with him the most.
“He’s always giving me confidence and telling me to just play my game, telling me I’m good enough to play in the NBA,” Seth said. “Hearing that from somebody like him, it makes you believe it.”
Steph said Saturday’s game would be “a really cool experience for my whole family,” a large group of which was on hand at Sleep Train Arena. Missing was Dell, who does TV commentary for the Charlotte Hornets and was on assignment in San Antonio, but who said it would be “a proud moment” and that he would “definitely be cheering both on.”
The Kings announced Saturday afternoon that Seth was doubtful for the game because of an ankle sprain, and he was a late arrival on-court for pregame warmups. Slowly, he made his way to midcourt, where he and Steph chatted briefly, clasped hands, hugged and posed for a picture.
Shortly before tipoff, the arena lights dimmed for the national anthem and players from the two teams lined up on their respective sides of the floor, each looking at midcourt. There was Steph, in a long-sleeved white Warriors shirt, and Seth, in a short-sleeved white Kings tee, the brothers facing each other over a short expanse of NBA floor, standing on equal ground.