Chris Ryan: With about nine minutes left in the third quarter and the Spurs holding on to a slipping six-point lead over the Warriors, Stephen Curry raced up the court off an Andrew Bogut rebound. Curry is not a normal point guard, so the normal rules of playing the position don't apply to him. This of course, is part of the fun of watching Stephen Curry over the last couple of weeks. He played like ... Stephen Curry, showing off a skill set so unique, on a pair of ankles so brittle, it felt like you were watching some endangered species. Like you sat down in your living room and boom, what in the shit, there was an Iberian lynx.
The other night in San Antonio, the Spurs “regained control” of their series with the upstart Golden State Warriors. Their winning formula was familiar: Tim Duncan and Tony Parker led the team in field goal attempts, while Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, and Danny Green each provided valuable supplements. The Spurs have a clear hierarchy of talent and leadership that generally manifests into a predictably similar order on the stat sheet.
The current Warriors hierarchy is in a bit of disarray. Although these playoffs have undeniably improved the reputations of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, in Game 5 it was Harrison Barnes and Jarrett Jack leading the Warriors in field goal attempts, while Curry and Thompson were off somewhere in the basement of the Alamo.
The NBA loves its stars (and so do we), but often, it’s the bit players who are just as essential in defining a team’s identity. Whether it’s a high-profile sixth man, or the guy on the end of the bench, they fit (or don’t) because of how everything else fits. As the great Lester Freamon once said, “All. The Pieces. Matter.” With that in mind, here is the first in a series of profiles looking at the best role players in the NBA.
Carl Landry knew early. The Warriors were opening their season in Phoenix on Halloween night, and with 1:04 left, Landry’s new team had the ball and a one-point lead. Landry had scored 10 of the 20 points in the final quarter, and when it came time for Mark Jackson to draw up what he hoped to be the dagger, it was Landry who’d have the chance to plunge it in.
As Jarrett Jack dribbled near the top of the key, Landry jogged toward him as if to set a screen. Rather than make contact with Jack’s man, Landry kept on moving, Marcin Gortat flashed to the middle to help on the non-existent screen, and Landry was left all alone near the right elbow. Taking the pass from Jack, Landry pulled up from 17 feet and, like that, it was 87-84 with less than a minute to go.
“I’m a bench guy,” Landry says. “You’ve got Steph on the court, who’s a potential All-Star. You’ve got David Lee, who’s an All-Star. For [Coach Jackson] to put the ball in my hands at the end of the game and trust that I can knock down that shot, right then and there I knew it was going to be a fun year.“
• Jarrett Jack got a bit of publicity when he tweeted earlier in the week that the league warned him about flopping in a preseason game as part of its new anti-flop crackdown. But he’s far from the only one. A league source tells Grantland the NBA flop czars have already warned “about 10” players for preseason floppage, though the league won’t publicly release their names. (That will change once the season starts and the shaming begins.) But it’s clear already the league is taking this seriously, and an aggressive early push wouldn’t be a surprise.