OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry hoisted his signature tunnel shot, signed a few quick autographs when daughter Riley arrived to greet him and he briefly held his arm around her before turning around to do his all-out hallway sprint as he does night after night. His little girl cleared the way and off her dad went running as hard as he could to the locker room.
“Solid,” Curry said with a grin of his sprint .
He’s healthy at last — and it showed immediately.
The Warriors star was all smiles during pregame warmups and was back in the starting lineup Saturday night against the Memphis Grizzlies in his return to the court after missing 11 games for Golden State with a sprained right ankle.
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With his parents, wife and two daughters in attendance, Curry’s first points came on a layup at 10:27 that put the Warriors out front 7-0 and forced a Memphis timeout. He then hit a 3-pointer at the 9:52 mark of the opening quarter before Memphis scored its first points.
Curry received roars from the sellout crowd during pregame introductions and Kevin Durant threw his right arm into the air to cheer his playmaking pal’s comeback.
Coach Steve Kerr said his plan would be to play Curry in 6- to 7-minute stretches and aim to keep the two-time MVP below 30 minutes total.
“Ideally four of those bursts sounds about right to me, but this is not an exact science, so we’ve discussed it with Chelsea (Lane) and with Steph about it,” Kerr said. “So this will be a case of he’s got to give us feedback as to how he’s feeling. I will keep an eye on him in terms of his wind and his conditioning but ideally 20-25 minutes would be nice. Well, he looks great but he hasn’t played in an NBA basketball game, which is totally different than guarding Willie Green in a 3-on-3 scrimmage, nothing against Willie, Willie’s a great friend and a hell of a coach but he’s no longer playing in the NBA. So it’d be tough to judge Steph’s conditioning on that matchup.”
While Kerr said Curry had done everything in his power to prepare to get back Saturday, “there’s no substitute for game action.”
The Warriors went 9-2 during Curry’s absence. He is averaging a team-leading 26.3 points — just higher than Durant’s 26.1 — 6.6 assists and 5.1 rebounds.
“If he’s out there, I expect him to be at a high level. I know for guys that haven’t played, there’s normally some rust, but for a guy with his skill set, I expect the rust to minimal,” Memphis interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “When you can shoot it the way that he can shoot it and the work that he’s put in on his ball handling, passing and all those things, we expect him to be at a high level.”
Kerr is hopeful the extended rest for his star point guard now to get fully healthy will benefit Curry down the stretch and in the postseason for the defending champions. Golden State shined during Durant’s 19-game absence last spring ahead of the playoffs, then went 15-1 on the way to a second title in three years and Durant earned NBA Finals MVP.
“Given the comprehensive four-year run in terms of going deep into the playoffs the last three and hopefully again this year, a little rest here and there does not hurt, both physically and mentally and emotionally,” Kerr said. “Steph I’m really excited to get back out tonight. Sometimes the absence of a month of basketball gives you a little more excitement and energy and I know he feels that way and it’ll probably do the same thing with our crowd and with our team, too.”
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