Courtesy of David Aldridge
Me: Your team succeeded in the brightest moments in 2015. It did not succeed in 2016. Which one of those events gives you more urgency and confidence going into The Finals?
Stephen Curry: Actually, they both do, to be honest with you. It’s hard to separate the experiences of both, because they were both really impactful on our outlook going into this series. Obviously you know what it takes to win. You know what that feeling’s like, when everything clicks and you’re able to walk off the floor as champions. On the other hand, you know how important each possession is, each game is, trying to get to that point of what we went through last year. This being our third time around, having experienced both, playing against the same team, a lot of confidence throughout our locker room knowing what to expect, how we’re going to be successful, and just going out and having fun and enjoying this process. It’s an unbelievable feeling being back in The Finals and being on this stage, and we want to get it done.
Me: Would you have been disappointed if it wasn’t Cleveland?
SC: Not if we’re in The Finals, not at all. (Laughs) But obviously that’s the situation. We know how tough a task it is to win against them. It’s going to take everything we’ve got, and it obviously is a great storyline for all that’s happened the last 24 months. To be back here, within the ropes, against the same team, it’s going to be a crazy series.
Me: Your numbers across the board in the playoffs have been the best in your career — points, percentage, efficiency. How much is the single-mindedness and focus you all have, and how much is individual matchups and being able to play off of a guy like KD?
SC: It’s all those factors. We have a great flow of what we’re doing every single night, great purpose about how we’re playing at both ends of the floor, really. I’m doing my part trying to lead that charge. I think as you look at the offensive end, we have so many playmakers. When we have a collective focus of how we’re supposed to play, things click. Obviously I’m going to make shots, KD’s going to make shots, Klay [Thompson]’s going to make shots, Draymond [Green]’s going to do what he does all over the floor, and we’re going to put ourselves in great position to win. I don’t really look at it like the individual production moreso than just when I’m out there. It seems this year we have such a great vibe about how we’re playing. And we want to keep that going over, hopefully, the next four wins.
Me: Whether or not he’s actually on the bench coaching during The Finals, how important is it for you to continue to still hear Steve’s voice — at practice, in the film room?
SC: It’s big. He’s done a tremendous job establishing our identity, what it means to play Warriors’ basketball in this era. No matter if he’s on the bench or not, it’s refreshing to hear his input. We know he’s giving it to the coaches no matter if he’s here or not. And we get to see him fighting through what he’s fighting through, and just giving us what he’s got. He always has a joke for us. He always has some kind of adjustment or an idea that we can focus on when it comes to how we’re playing. Obviously in the conference finals against San Antonio, there was a time in the locker room when it happened; at halftime he spoke up and gave us something to focus on, and we came out firing away. So, it’s huge. Mike Brown has done a great job, and the whole staff has, filling in during his absence. But Coach is Coach, and we love when he’s around.
Me: It was said of Ali and Frazier that they weren’t just fighting for the heavyweight title; they were fighting for the championship of each other. And I wonder if you have that similar feeling here, knowing it’s the third time with the Cavs, the third time with LeBron, and these are the two best teams in basketball, and we have to figure out once and for all who the better team is?
SC: For sure. It’s the ultimate rubber match, right? There’s kind of no debate after this who the better team is, on this stage. Both teams, I know, are going to give it everything we’ve got. It’s an adrenaline-filled series that, as a basketball player, you come to training camp in October, this is what you dream about playing, on this stage … you’ve got to do whatever you’ve got to do to be the last man standing.