Steph Curry ‘more comfortable in that underdog role’; Also is now the longest tenured player on any NBA team… is that bad?

Warriors’ Steph Curry relishing new underdog role, Gotham Chopra says

Dalton Johnson | NBC SPORTS 

Steph Curry finds himself in a familiar place, even though it’s a feeling he hasn’t felt in years. He’s being doubted again, and he’s ready for everyone to think he and the Warriors are done. 

“I think the thing that’s kind of revealing that you find out is he’s really relishing this new role that the team has as an underdog,” Gotham Chopra, co-creator of “Stephen vs. The Game,” said Monday in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “It’s something that Steph is very comfortable with. He said it was really strange for him to be in that Goliath role the past five years where everyone looked at them as sort of the super power.

“He’s more comfortable in that underdog role.”

The naysayers have come out of the woodwork with the Warriors looking far more vulnerable than they have in years. Kevin Durant is gone, as is Andre Iguodala. Klay Thompson will miss several months after tearing his ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. This is a new era of Warriors basketball and Curry is excited for it to start, as seen with him working out with new teammate D’Angelo Russell on Monday.

“I think the fact that now people are saying the dynasty is over and they’re sort of casting aside the Warriors as too injured, too fragile, too whatever … it’s something that he’s really relishing and you get that sense. He doesn’t sit there and worry about the losses for very long.

“He’s a competitor and I think he’s looking forward to next season.” 

The final episode of the docu-series comes out on Facebook Watch. Chopra says it will show just how banged up Curry’s body was at the end of the season, too.

“Physically, you see in the final part of our series, he had his own nicks and bruises along the way,” Chopra said. “Obviously in terms of the playoffs with injuries to KD, Klay, Andre — it was just some really tough injuries that they dealt with. I think they took a lot of pride in how far they able to push it and keep on going. They certainly weren’t an easy out.” 

Chopra says working with Curry over the past year was incredible. The documentarian praised the two-time MVP’s ability to block negativity and stay focused on the task at hand. 

“I think if anything surprised me, it’s just that he’s the real deal,” Chopra said. “He has that great reputation, but really to have that balance and not get distracted by all the noise out there is pretty remarkable.” 

One of the most unique aspects that Chopra was able to see was the behind the scenes of Steph playing his brother Seth in the Western Conference Finals. Parents Dell and Sonya believed they were in for a real treat as their sons played each other on the biggest stage. But it wasn’t all that easy. 

And not every second was easy for Steph, too. 

“I know Steph — he’s just so proud of his younger brother. I think that was sort of this tension for him. Of course as a competitor he wanted to win, but he also wanted his brother to do really well because it was the farthest he had gotten. He was really happy for him.”

Chopra met the real Steph Curry. He saw him interact with his family and children. He saw him deal with injuries and losses. Through it all, there’s one word that describes the Warriors’ star. 

“Joyful,” Chopra said without hesitation. “He plays the game with a lot of joy and he’s a good person and I think he’s very much the same guy on the court that he is off the court. He’s humble and he’s grateful.

“He’s a competitor for sure, but he recognizes what he has and he wants to share that with the world.”  

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Steph Curry is now the longest tenured player on any NBA team. Is that bad?

Ted Berg | USA TODAY SPORTS

SPOILER ALERT: No, I don’t think it’s all that bad. Betteridge’s law holds true.

But the blockbuster Russell Westbrook trade put yet another exclamation point on an NBA offseason that now reads like a breathless stream of text messages from a teenager who just met Taylor Swift. And since long-tenured Heat center Udonis Haslem is currently a free agent, long-tenured Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki just retired, and long-tenured Grizzlies guard Mike Conley was traded to the Jazz amid a frenzy of activity last week, Westbrook — who was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics six days before they relocated to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder — had been the NBA player longest associated with the same team.

Now it’s Steph Curry. Steph Curry, who’s 31 and an established veteran but still sort of feels like a new thing to the olds among us, has been with the Warriors since 2009, longer than any other NBA player has been with his team. John Wall, drafted by the Wizards in 2010, is next on the list.

Traditional sports thinking — i.e. baseball thinking, I guess — would have you believe the lack of long-tenured stars is a bad thing. And from a fan’s perspective, there is obviously something endearing about a player spending his entire career with the same organization.

Even if we rationally know it’s usually not the case, we want to believe our players care as much about our specific team as we do: This guy loves it here; he wants to win here. Never mind that the person is a professional athlete who will want desperately to win every contest he or she ever plays for any outfit. Fans pride themselves on their loyalty, so we appreciate it when players appear as loyal as we are to the clubs for which they play.

And maybe hotter takers will argue that the dizzying way so many NBA teams have overhauled their rosters this month speaks to the shortening of our societal attention span, and represents an indictment of a world that now values novelty over fealty.

But, I suspect, multiple factors conspire to help us better appreciate why players change teams than we did even a decade ago.

For one thing, access to these people via social media helps us — or some of us, at least — recognize them as real human beings who just happen to be inhumanly good at a sport, people with home lives and families and relatable interests beyond the jerseys on their backs. For another, the vast and increasing amount of information available to everyone about everything has changed the way we understand and evaluate what front offices do.

I have no way to quantify any of this, but it sure seems like the connotation of the term “company man” has changed quite a bit over time. Where, say, a player like Mike Trout might’ve once been widely and wildly praised for signing a longterm extension with the Angels, I frequently see the opposite sentiment expressed now. People say Trout took the easy way out for re-upping with the team that drafted him; if he really wanted to win, he’d have left in free agency.

And it at least feels like it’s easier for teams to part ways with longstanding franchise icons now that fans have easy access to all those guys’ stats and the particulars of the team’s salary-cap situation and a more thorough understanding of the moves necessary to get better. It’s lot easier to Trust the Process when all it takes is some quick Googling to spell out that process in full.

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