Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin: Kings’ Seth Curry playing his way into bigger role

Kings guard Seth Curry, brother of Warriors superstar Steph Curry, is beginning to make his mark in Sacramento.
Kings guard Seth Curry, brother of Warriors superstar Steph Curry, is beginning to make his mark in Sacramento. hamezcua@sacbee.com

During his tenure with the Charlotte Hornets in the mid-1990s, Vlade Divac would linger near the court after practice, schmoozing and bantering with teammates, while a group of scrawny youngsters grabbed basketballs and ran around heaving two-handed, two-legged jumpers from NBA three-point range.

Glen Rice’s two boys. Dell Curry’s two boys. The sons of two of the game’s greatest shooters often dueled until their arms ached.

“I was always surprised, because they were so little, and they were launching all those threes,” said Divac, now the Kings general manager. “I guess it’s in the genes.”

Dell Curry was one of the NBA’s original three-point artists, and Steph Curry is the Golden State Warriors’ boyish-looking wonder, an elegant, electrifying figure who expands the definition of a point guard every time he touches a ball. He is the ultimate crossover, the league’s Most Valuable Player and its most magnetic star. It’s impossible to look away. The setup dribbles and step-back jumpers. The outrageous pullup threes. The daring, deceptive drives and feathery finishes. And that killer smile that spit-shines the entire package.

Imagine being Steph Curry’s little brother and Dell Curry’s son?

Kings guard Seth Curry is double-teamed. No doubt about that. But there are plenty of advantages to being prepped by two of the best in the business. Dell Curry taught his younger son how to shoot, move without the ball, make plays for teammates, use every inch and ounce of his 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame to fight through screens and stay in front of his man. Steph Curry pushed his brother to reach another level, and while en route to winning an NBA championship, he wrote a textbook on resilience.

I was always surprised, because they were so little, and they were launching all those threes. I guess it’s in the genes.

Kings general manager Vlade Divac, on the sons of former teammates Dell Curry and Glen Rice

Steph Curry was too small. He had bad ankles. He owned a questionable college pedigree. After the now-famous predraft workout that featured Steph Curry and the bigger, stronger Tyreke Evans, the Kings’ former front office executives celebrated their good fortune. It was a man against boys, former coach Paul Westphal gushed later that day.

The Kings got their man, all right, and the Warriors got the boy, the future superstar.

While passing on Steph Curry remains one of the Kings’ biggest draft gaffes, Divac takes a measured look at the younger Curry and sees traits he believes will benefit his team. An inch shorter than his brother, Seth Curry, 25, has played both backcourt positions and was an elite deep shooter in high school and college at Liberty and Duke.

Hampered by a stress fracture during his senior season, he wasn’t drafted and spent the better part of two seasons as a dominant scorer in the NBA Development League, but he received only one-game auditions in Memphis and Cleveland, a round-trip ticket and zero playing time in Orlando, and just eight minutes in two games last year in Phoenix.

After watching Curry in the Las Vegas summer league, Divac contacted his old teammate.

“I knew Seth could shoot,” Divac said, “but it wasn’t until seeing him in the summer league that I realized he could pass and make plays for teammates. I want players like that.”

Divac turned on the charm, offered a two-year contract, and the Curry family history took another strange Sacramento turn. It appears there is more to come. Curry is pressing for more playing time and coach George Karl, who loves shooters and passers and tinkering with small ball, seems inclined to oblige.

The rookie’s latest performance Monday against the Dallas Mavericks was particularly impressive. With Ben McLemore struggling and Marco Belinelli ailing, Curry contributed 20 minutes of offense, defense, smarts, toughness. Already a crowd favorite – and please, hold the Jimmer Fredette references – he entered the game to a loud ovation in the opening half, then energized the crowd with a momentum-changing three.

I knew Seth could shoot, but it wasn’t until seeing him in the summer league that I realized he could pass and make plays for teammates. I want players like that.

Kings general manager Vlade Divac, on guard Seth Curry

In his 20 minutes, he made another three, sank two free throws, grabbed a rebound, added an assist, moved without the ball, and consistently fought through screens – an unfamiliar sight in Sleep Train Arena in recent seasons. During one significant sequence, he raced downcourt and anchored himself in the lane, inducing a punishing charge from the onrushing 6-10, 230-pound Chandler Parsons that slowed a Mavericks rally.

“One of the reasons Vlade brought me here was because I will defend and I can play off the ball, or with the ball,” Curry said. “I watched my dad a lot growing up, and while we are very different players, I picked that up from him.”

And from Steph?

“He’s always been a little taller,” said Curry, “but we were not that far apart in age, so it was always pretty competitive. We have shooting contests all the time. It’s probably about 50-50. The biggest difference between us is that his release is quicker than mine. He can shoot so quick, off the dribble, any time. That’s what I work on all the time.”

But similar to what Steph Curry said after that fateful predraft workout in the Kings practice facility, Seth Curry wants to prove his worth as a legitimate NBA player, not merely a shooter, not just a passer. He wants to be a winner, and hopes this is a start.

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