LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The phone rang Sunday night with a giddy Stephen Curry on the other end of the line. The most renowned long-distance shooter in basketball was driving home from what he described as a true bucket-list experience: Curry followed the last three groups at the PGA Championship from the best vantage point he could have imagined for such a prestigious event.
“Right on the ropes,” Curry said. “You almost forgot it was a major tournament because it was so quiet out there.”
Curry was among the select few who had the juice to gain entry to TPC Harding Park in San Francisco when it was closed to the public. It was not terribly surprising given that Curry just led the Golden State Warriors to three championships in five years, and won back-to-back NBA Most Valuable Player Awards at the start of the run. That the experience was such a pinch-me scenario for him should also be understandable by now; Curry openly loves golf as much as he relishes uncorking 3-pointers from distances that were widely considered unacceptable until he made the practice of hoisting 30-footers so routine.
Yet these are also strange times for Curry, which made the next-level access at the year’s first golf major even more meaningful. It was an escape from the constant reminders that he and his Warriors are somehow irrelevant in the NBA for now.
“Obviously I was happy to see basketball back on TV, but that first week I had major FOMO,” Curry said, using the popular term for the “fear of missing out.”
“Once you see Bron and Kawhi and PG go at it, and you remember how much fun it is to play in those types of games and that kind of level, you miss it badly,” Curry added, referring to the July 30 showdown between LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
The Warriors are one of eight teams — cheekily christened the “Delete Eight” by ESPN’s John Hollinger — that were not invited to participate in the NBA restart here at Walt Disney World. After Curry broke his left hand in October, Golden State went 15-50 this season and, truthfully, did not want an invitation. The team was already bracing for a tough year without Klay Thompson, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in June 2019 during the Finals.
Team officials believe that the longer-than-usual rest Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green are getting will help vault the Warriors back to their usual standing among the league’s elite next season. The group’s five consecutive NBA Finals appearances from 2015-19 amounted to a grind unseen since the reign of the 1960s Boston Celtics.
It is nonetheless bizarre to see players and staff members from 22 teams moving throughout the sprawling NBA campus at Disney World — and to never see anyone in Warriors gear. The franchise that lorded over the league for the better part of a decade has zero presence at this so-called bubble.
The struggle to process that dichotomy hits Curry every time he visits the Warriors’ practice facility for a weekday workout. Only four players are allowed in the gym at any time, for precautionary health reasons, but games from the bubble are always on the nearest television screen, even if Curry is getting his work in at 11 a.m. Pacific time.
“It’s just weird,” he said.
Yet he’s convinced that the Warriors have a big rebound in store, even though Curry (32), Thompson (30) and Green (30) are all on the wrong side of their 20s now. He is adamant that Golden State — with the former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins on its roster and a 2020 top-five draft pick to keep or trade — is the one team that would surely benefit from going nine months, or potentially longer, without playing a meaningful game.
“Our roster kind of speaks for itself in terms of what me, Klay and Draymond have been through, and what we’ve got left in the tank,” Curry said. “But it’s on us to use this time wisely. It’s just unchartered territory, whether you’re in the bubble or not.”
Curry does have more pipelines than most to stay connected to what’s happening in Florida. Beyond the frequent bubble updates he gets from friends on other teams, like Miami’s Andre Iguodala, Sacramento’s Kent Bazemore and Memphis’ Anthony Tolliver, he has a natural rooting interest: Seth Curry, his younger brother, is here with the Dallas Mavericks.
“For most of my career, I’m usually the one who’s been home watching Steph late in the season,” Seth Curry said. “Now it’s the other way around and I’m still at work. I can tell it’s a little tough on him.”
If the Mavericks can spring a first-round playoff upset — they will likely play the Clippers, whose coach, Doc Rivers, is Seth Curry’s father-in-law — Stephen Curry said he may push to make Seth’s short list of family members allowed to enter the bubble after Aug. 30. Failing that, Stephen Curry said, he is serious about wearing one of Seth Curry’s No. 30 Mavericks jerseys as a virtual fan for an upcoming game.
But the foremost bubble curiosity for the eldest Curry brother is how campus inhabitants cope with the extended time away from their families. Monday was Seth Curry and the Mavericks’ 33rd day here after arriving July 8, with the playoffs not scheduled to begin until Aug. 17.
“If you say I get to play basketball, sleep and play golf on my off days, that’s not a bad setup,” Stephen Curry said. “From a day-to-day perspective, how you fill your time, I would have no problem adjusting to that. But you can’t take family out of the equation. I don’t think any of us have been away from our families for that long before.”
That level of commitment, along with the determination of so many of his peers to speak loudly on social justice issues throughout the NBA restart, are two big reasons Curry said he is “proud of every single one of these players.”
Noting how President Donald Trump has been critical of NBA players’ kneeling during the national anthem before games to protest racial inequality, Curry said: “My barometer is always, if the current president is upset about something that somebody’s speaking out on, then you’re probably saying the right thing. Whether they’ve knelt, or sacrificed an interview to talk about Breonna Taylor, or whatever’s important, they’re talking about it and they’re backing it up with action.”
To cope with the FOMO, Curry said he relies on all the bonus family time he’s getting with his wife, Ayesha, and their three children, business endeavors and then special occasions like Sunday’s PGA outing. He “jumped around from hole to hole” with Kris Stone and Bryant Barr, two of his closest friends and business partners, and with his Warriors teammate Damion Lee, who is married to Sydel Curry-Lee, Stephen and Seth’s sister.
Before hopping into his car at the end of the day, Curry had the chance to sample the role of media member by asking the new champion, Collin Morikawa, a few questions at a news conference. Curry also joked about all the extra time he has available and volunteered his caddying services to Morikawa, who played college golf for the University of California, Berkeley.
Since it remains unclear when next season will start, Curry said that, with little choice, he is settling into “pure fandom.”
“I think it’s a pretty good space to be in after what we’ve been through the last five years,” he said.
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