- Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.
SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State Warriors star guard Stephen Curry has been cleared for contact and is eyeing a March 1 return to the floor after taking part in his first scrimmage since breaking his left hand on Oct. 30.
“It’s always been March 1,” Curry said of a target date, after Saturday’s practice. “But that for me mostly is just to give you a target. You have to have something to work towards in the rehab process because that gives you a barometer for each week, what you’re building towards. Like I’ve always said, I haven’t had any setbacks along the way, this has been a very long, strenuous rehab process, and it’s something I haven’t been through before, so it’s nice that I’m getting that type of response with every new challenge that I kind of go after.”
Curry originally broke his hand after a collision with Phoenix Suns center Aron Baynes on Oct. 30. After the initial surgery to fix the fracture on Nov. 1, Curry had a scheduled follow-up procedure in December to take out pins from the hand. He wore a look of both happiness and relief as he spoke to reporters after Saturday’s practice.
“It feels good,” Curry said. “It’s been a long three and a half-plus months, whatever it is. Just trying to understand all the different checkpoints I had to try and get through to get to this point and then what’s left, but this is the fun part, I guess, where you get to actually play basketball and worry about what happens in between the lines and not so much the specific rehab parts. It’s nice to get out there with my guys and play and keep moving forward.”
Curry noted that while he’s comfortable being back on the floor, his left hand still doesn’t feel the same as it did before the injury.
“I’m getting used to what a new normal is,” Curry said. “It definitely feels different than the right [hand], But you can try to get to a point when you’re actually playing basketball, you don’t think about it. Whether it feels all the way the same or not, it really doesn’t matter. As long as I’m not worried about the things that I’m trying to do, the strength part of it. And how it bounces back the next day after pushing it, whether it’s contact stuff or all that, you have to pay attention to all that type of stuff … it is going to feel different.”
After watching Curry got through the tedious rehab process for months, his teammates and coaches were happy to have him back with them on Saturday.
“I think everybody’s excited,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He got an ovation today when I told the group he was going to scrimmage with us. Everybody was excited. It will be good for our young guys to feel what it’s like to play with him and vice versa. Steph needs to get to know these guys, too … it’s a big part of the final third of the season is everybody playing together, acclimating together, with the trade for Andrew [Wiggins], the young guys, Steph coming back, these games matter.”
Both Kerr and Curry are optimistic about the possibility of playing on March 1, when the Warriors host the Washington Wizards. They believe that the conditioning work Curry has been putting in over the past few months will pay off as he gets ready for game action again.
“Now we’ll give him more scrimmaging, more contact and we’ll see how the coming week goes,” Kerr said. “And hopefully before too long he’ll be ready to roll.”
Curry also had a message for any critic who wondered if it was even worth him returning this season. The Warriors come into Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans with a league-worst 12-44 record. When asked what he would say to people who said he shouldn’t come back and play because he will mess up the Warriors’ lottery odds, Curry offered a simple response.
“I’m gonna do what’s right for me,” he said. “And that’s about it.”
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