Steph believes CP3-Warriors union will work but questions remain

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Steph believes CP3-Warriors union will work but questions remain originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

STATELINE, Nev. – Stephen Curry and Chris Paul have been the premier point guards of this era, longtime rivals whose deep familiarity and sharply contrasting styles were perfectly suited to NBA warfare.

At tipoff, they would submerge their otherwise congenial relationship and click on an unmistakable competitive animosity. Each took the court with the goal of taking the heart of the other.

All that history, nearly a decade of skirmishing, with Curry generally the victor when it mattered most, must now be relegated to the past. For as strange as it still seems, nearly a month after the Warriors acquired Paul, the adversaries are teammates.

Which would seem to require an emotional/mental adjustment for both, eh?

Curry begs to differ.

“No, that will be pretty easy,” he told NBC Sports Bay Area at the American Century Championship golf tournament last week. “You get over that pretty quickly once the trade happens.”

This is not LeBron James or Russell Westbrook or James Harden joining Steph’s Warriors. None of them would have any chance of making a seamless transition to Golden State’s culture and style of play, both of which revolve around Curry. Moreover, none of them has CP3’s long a history with Steph.

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They met not long after the turn of the millennium, teenagers growing up about an hour apart in North Carolina. Paul, three years older, was a McDonald’s All-American senior at West Forsyth High School when Curry was a freshman at Charlotte Christian School out to prove he wasn’t too scrawny to earn a basketball scholarship.

Insofar as they go back more than 20 years, becoming teammates is something of a full circle occurrence.

“We’re good friends,” Curry said. “He was a mentor of mine when I was coming up. That makes him sound really old, but I’m right there with him. Fifteen years ago, when I was coming into the league, he took me under his wing. I got to work out with him. He showed me what it meant to prepare as an NBA athlete.

“And then you have battles with him throughout the years.

“If you had asked me two years ago, ‘Would you ever play with Chris?’ Probably not. Fast forward, and we’re here.”

“Here” is best described as a place of curiosity, with a series of questions that lack easily anticipated answers.

When the Warriors made 24-year-old Jordan Poole the centerpiece in a trade for Paul, 38, there was abundant skepticism around the league. Some of it was related to Paul’s age and injury history. Much of it, however, was related to Paul’s strong leadership presence. He assumed the alpha role early in his NBA career with the Hornets, during his prime with the Clippers and in his later years with the Rockets and Suns.

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Can CP3, after all these years, never once coming off an NBA bench, make the psychological adjustment from starter/leader averaging 32 minutes per game to reserve/contributor averaging closer to 20? That’s a maybe.

Can CP3’s deliberate style at the point be compatible with Golden State’s hyperactive offense? That’s a probably. Paul’s low-turnover history is an asset that made him attractive. Besides, Curry’s most productive No. 2, Shaun Livingston, also was a change of pace. This feels like compromise.

Can CP3 stay healthy enough to play 60-65 games and still be fresh for the postseason – the point at which his value is highest? That one is impossible to know and perilous to project.

Curry concedes that the Warriors have “a lot to figure out,” but loves the depth, citing veterans Dario Saric and Cory Joseph coming off the bench along with third-year players Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.

The key newbie is Paul, because of his status and resumé.

“It’s one of those (moves) where it makes sense in the sense of understanding who he is as a player and what he can do for our team and our depth, our versatility and being able to have a couple different looks, especially offensively,” Curry said of CP3. “He connects a lot of rotations and lineups that we can have out there.”

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Curry already has gone through workouts with his former nemesis, the two hitting the gym in Las Vegas during summer league. They have discussed ways to approach the task and are comforted by intellectual trust and a desire to win.

Paul is hoping to win an NBA title for the first time in a career that began in 2005. Curry, with four NBA championships and six appearances in The Finals, knows what it takes to reach the top.

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The NBA season begins in three months, leaving plenty of time for the Warriors to seek answers. They’re probably going to need every hour.

“We don’t even necessarily know what that looks like right now,” Curry said. “But if everybody’s energy is focused toward that, that’s when great things happen. We’ve proven that over the years and we’re going to try to do it again.”

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