OAKLAND (CBS SF) — It’s not unusual to leave yourself a post-it note or some other written reminder when facing a major business meeting or challenge in life.
For Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, instead of a post-it note on his locker Sunday, it was his shoes.
Written there for all to see were the words “No” and “Reach” — a reminder of an annoying habit he must overcome if the Warriors are to be successful in their quest for a third straight championship.
Curry has gotten into the habit of picking up cheap reach-in fouls early and often in the opening round series against the Los Angeles Clippers. The bulk of his 17 fouls over the Warriors’ first four playoff games have come when he’s reached to poke the ball away from his man.
Having Curry sitting on the bench in foul trouble has forced Golden State Head Coach Steve Kerr to use lineups that have not played much together during the regular season and helped in Golden State’s epic meltdown loss in Game 2.
“He’s just not been focused (on defense),” Kerr said after Sunday’s Game Four win. “I don’t know if you saw his shoes. One shoe said ‘No.’ One said ‘Reach.’ He didn’t reach as much tonight.”
Kerr, who also played with Michael Jordan on the famed Chicogo Bulls teams, has an unique insight into the minds of his players. Observant by nature, Kerr has been there as a player and a coach. It’s what has made him one of the most successful coaches in NBA history.
Curry, his head coach says, is an instinctual player.
“He’s such a fascinating player because the same thing that makes him not hesitate to shoot a fade-away 30-footer maybe is something that leads to foul trouble,” Kerr said. “He doesn’t overthink much.”
So what has been the result of relying so much on instinct?
“He’s just got into the habit of reaching instead of showing his hands and and trusting the help behind him,” Kerr said.
Curry said reminder worked, particularly in the second half, where he was able to keep out of foul trouble and on the court. Still, he had a miserable shooting afternoon Sunday, going 3-14 from the field for a total of just 12 points in the Warriors 113-105 victory.
“It actually did (work),” he said of the shoe message. “Besides the third foul, I really didn’t put myself in bad positions. Then pretty much the whole second half, I was able to be aggressive on the ball, play positional defense and not foul and not get out of my rotation. So, I’ll continue to focus on it. Good call, bad call, I need to not put myself in bad positions.”
‘Bad positions’ may not have a major impact now on the Warriors, keeping them from clinching a first-round win over the undermanned Clippers, but it’s what looms ahead that might.
With Houston owning a 3-0 advantage in their best-of-seven series against the Utah Jazz, it’s a good bet that in Round Two it will be a Rockets-Warriors showdown.
That means that Curry will often find himself against James Harden — whose ability to pick up fouls on opposing players is almost legendary. If you reach on Harden, you lose.
“He’s just in a little bit of a rut right now,” Kerr said of Curry.
He’d better hope that rut is long gone by the time Harden faces off against his tram.