April 17, 2024

Brighton Journal

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Thompson: Draymond Green's ejection fully showed Steph Curry's burden

Thompson: Draymond Green's ejection fully showed Steph Curry's burden

After a long look, Stephen Curry finally tried to shake off his frothy mood, sparked by Draymond Green's ejection, and shook his head as disbelief turned to disapproval.

Words were not necessary to understand Carrie's thoughts. About 90% of effective communication is nonverbal anyway. With closed lips and clenched jaw, Kari was screaming.

Not again.

Not against a physically strong team.

Not a day after the big win in Miami.

Not when the Golden State Warriors are on their last legs of the season, with Houston threatening playoff extinction.

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Curry usually keeps his emotions – other than his competitive anger and infectious joy – well hidden. Safely tucked inside a Carry brand. Beyond polish and professionalism. Under perspective. The Warriors point guard has the patience of a tortoise raised by elephants in the monastery, so it takes a long time to wrestle those emotions to the surface. Especially live. Especially in public.

However, on Wednesday in Orlando, his repression mechanism collapsed. At the 8:24 mark of the first quarter, before beads of sweat had fully formed on their foreheads, Green, the anchor of the Warriors' defense, was banished to the locker room. He was sent off after receiving two technical fouls. The tough call by referee Ray Acosta angered Green. Once again, Green let his fire burn so intensely that it almost burned what remained of his team's hopes.

The volcanic star had not erupted in a while, and this volcano was not particularly large. But this is the second season with Green's pyroklast singing. So each episode is a reminder of past injustices, and this latest episode has a cumulative effect. The curry has doubled.

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β€œIt was emotional because our team needed a win,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

Frustration turned into disappointment. And disappointment leads to anger. And anger leads to passion.

Then Kerr did the thing that most belied his composure. As Curry bent over, swaying to contain his swelling emotions, Kerr patted Curry on the back encouragingly. Anyone who has ever been on the verge of tears knows that rubbing their back will break the strongest emotional dams.

The next thing you knew, Carrie was walking again, still shaking his head. He clapped his hands once, as if he wanted to go back to that moment. Then he used the inside of his white shirt to wipe away the traces of worry.

The last time we saw Curry cry on the court was in the NBA Finals, 21 months ago, on Boston's legendary parquet floor under a set of Celtics banners. He was struck by the seal of his legend, by a team that came together brilliantly enough to make history.

This time, it was on Orlando's unsanctioned hardwood, in the darkness of last March. He was brimming with anger and disappointment, inevitably feeling akin to an embarrassing postseason whiff, momentarily frustrated by a team and a teammate who at times seemed ripe for self-destruction. His desperation is to discover a way to stop it.

The show, stark and viral, was illustrative of the burden Carrey bears. Even though he knew in his heart that a fifth episode was not within reach this season, he pushed everything that was left in him to the middle of the table. This exhausting, haphazard and humbling season has one redemptive goal remaining. Not just a spot in the Play-In Championship, but a sustained stretch of their best ball that will not only be worthy of the postseason, but breathe life into the possibility of a fifth ring down the road.

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Such a closing extension is still possible. Fortunately for the Warriors, they didn't need Green to beat Orlando. They had enough defense and solidity without him. They had enough momentum and inside scoring, thanks to Gary Payton II, Moses Moody, and Trace Jackson-Davis. They've had enough of Andrew Wiggins, the best version of him. It is enough for Curry, who fought the entire match against fatigue and harassment from the Magic before finally surrendering it.

A layup by Curry followed by a dagger 3, and Green's setback was overcome with Orlando, 101-93. The Warriors still have two road games against lesser opponents (Charlotte and San Antonio) on this road trip. Handling business means they are still alive to play indoors. Which means validation is still possible.

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The Warriors' Steph Curry got emotional after the win following Draymond Green's early ejection

That carrot of a future championship is a relic of their dynasty, which is why they're still clinging to their diminished effective formula. For Curry, it's clearly worth every ounce he has. And every ounce of his teammates.

Green, the architect involved in all of this, is supposed to be with him.

β€œAll I'll say is we need him,” Curry told reporters after the game. “Because he knows that. We all know that. So whatever it takes for him to be on the floor and available, that's what has to happen. Especially this time of year.”

Green's double-technique dismissal was nowhere near stomping on an opponent's chest or suffocating a rival in the name of peacemaking. In the grand scheme of Greene's abuse, this was tame. He has been perfect since his return from suspension. If it had been anyone else, Acosta would have been more villainous as he ejected a key player 3:36 into the game.

But this is Draymond, the villain of the NBA. Wednesday was a reminder that he had no rope. He admitted he was tired of hurting his team and burdening Curry. This time, neither was enough to calm Greene down.

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The situation was almost resolved with one technical foul, as he and Acosta parted ways. But Greene's righteous indignation got the better of him and he had to exorcise one last insult, a final insult accompanied by “obscene, foul language.”

In that moment, you can see the damage to Curry as he struggles to find his position, which is usually always within reach. It took him a minute.

Because this season, stubbornly, won't give the Warriors a break.

Because this pivotal game is now set up to be another painful loss in a sore campaign. Already without Jonathan Kuminga, Curry will have to navigate the Magic's aggressive defense without his telepathy with Green.

Because after everything they've been through, after the deep conversations and apologies, after the suspensions and the fines and the national ridicule, Green still hasn't fully exorcised his demons. There is no doubt that Curry felt the painful truth that his friend might never feel.

But that's the burden of stardom. This is certainly Carrey's accepted role as the face of this franchise.

So, he got himself together. With the regiments available, he spent a night in Orlando and pushed the warriors forward. However, we've never seen before just how important an era can be, perhaps why Kerr is so concerned about Curry's fatigue, and even the price of riding with and with the double-edged sword that is Draymond Green.

But challenges must be faced. Loads must be carried. Games must be won. The last opportunities must be seized. And fellow legends must always be stopped.

(Photo: Mike Erman/Getty Images)