‘Why?’: Stephen Curry’s Return Highlights Bigger Questions for the NBA’s Regular Season

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Photo credit: Jed Jacobsohn/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry will make his return Thursday night against the Toronto Raptors. The biggest question in response to this is: “Why?”

The Warriors are 14-48. Their tragic number for elimination from the playoffs is four, the lowest in the league. They’ll be out within two weeks, at most. The season is over, it’s been over, and it’s been disastrous.

So what’s the point in bringing Curry back and risking further injury?

FOR THE WARRIORS…

The starting response when head coach Steve Kerr was asked about it was basically, “Why not?”

This is where the optimist and the cynic in me clash.

The optimist agrees with everything Kerr said here. Curry’s risk of re-injury is low to nonexistent. He can play. The fans want to watch him, both in the Chase Center and abroad. In all the discussions that go on with teams and their partners, with the players and with league business, the fans are so rarely brought up — and if they are, they’re spoken of as a commodity.

Playing Curry gives the game one of its greatest players back. It makes the seven million times the Warriors are on national TV for the rest of the season more exciting. It’s good for team morale as the Warriors try to figure out which pieces they keep from this zombie season and which they ditch.

And I am sure that Kerr’s intentions are pure in this respect. The cynic in me wonders, however, about the part where Kerr talks about the fans buying tickets. To be clear, I do not think Kerr has any sort of impulse towards the financial side of the Curry decision.

But the Warriors could have brought Curry back Sunday, or Tuesday in Denver. And instead, he’s returning for a stretch of home games on national TV vs. quality opponents. His return will naturally boost ticket prices for those games.

The Warriors just moved into the Chase Center, an endeavor that cost billions; a few games of boosted ticket prices will not in any way really dent those costs or the money lost to the injuries the Warriors suffered this season on top of missing out on the playoff revenue.

Photo credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images. Pictured: Chase Center

But every bit helps, right? Every bit helps with season ticket sales for next year. Every bit helps with concession sales and taking some of the edge off one of the most lucrative teams in the league.

After all, it’s not like rewarding the fans was a driving factor into moving them from Oracle Arena across the Bay, right?

In years where the Warriors were gunning for a title, Curry would routinely sit out road games for rest, disappointing those fans who came to see him. Now, this isn’t equal to that situation. The Warriors were pursuing a title and were taking precautions based on the medical information they had on him regarding his endurance and fatigue.

But the point is that all of this comes down to a subjective determination of what is and isn’t important. The reason some — not many, but some — have questioned this decision is because, in the end, these games are meaningless. The Warriors are risking a re-injury to Curry in games that don’t ultimately matter because they’ll be in the lottery; they’re actually losing odds at a superior pick with him playing and competing.

And that gets us into a separate issue.


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FOR THE LEAGUE…

The same line of thought that questions why Curry is playing in meaningless games is the same one that supports load management and players sitting out (or taking it easy) throughout the regular season. It gets to a key component of what’s wrong with the NBA’s current regular season format.

Everything in the regular season is solely for something else.

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