SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry took the 14 steps from his team’s locker room up to the tunnel that leads to the floor at Chase Center on Thursday night and couldn’t wait to see what was in front of him.
He started running as soon as he got the chance and jumped up in anticipation as he made his long-awaited return to an NBA game on Thursday after four long months of rehab on a broken left hand.
“Player coming out!” a Chase Center security official yelled.
Curry couldn’t wait to get back to the game he loved, the game that had been taken away from him after breaking his hand on Oct. 30 when Phoenix Suns center Aron Baynes fell on him underneath the basket. All the emotion of the past few months came out as Curry raced to the floor to see a crowd that has missed watching him just as much as he has missed playing the game.
“Ahhhh!” Curry exclaimed on his run up to the floor. Curry’s head almost hit the low ceiling in the tunnel as he made his entrance inside the new building.
Aside from his exuberance ahead of Thursday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, the most notable part of Curry’s return was the impact it had on everybody else around him. Warriors staffers smiled widely throughout the day in anticipation of the star getting back on the court.
“It feels like, in a lot of ways, not just Steph’s return, but it just feels like we’ve kind of emerged from the woods a little bit the last week or two, knowing Steph was going to return,” coach Steve Kerr said before the game. “It’s been a nice little stretch here, and I think Steph has a lot to do with that, I think, as he’s been around us, and it’s become apparent that he was getting closer and closer. The impact he makes on us — he gets everybody excited, and I think tonight we’re all thrilled for him more than anything, just because he’s put in so much work. But we’re all excited to see him out on the floor again.”
Curry, 31, received a loud ovation before the game after being introduced for the first time. Fans screamed their approval and stood for longer than usual to welcome the two-time MVP back.
Curry racked up two assists early in the game, including a beautiful behind-the-back pass to Andrew Wiggins for an easy layup. Curry missed his first shot attempt, with 8 minutes, 50 seconds left in the first quarter, a 3-pointer that came a couple feet beyond the 3-point arc.
“I do think there will be a sense of energy and enthusiasm the rest of the season,” Kerr said. “Because to me, this is sort of the beginning of next season in a lot of ways; and I think we’re all starting to get some clarity as far as what our team’s gonna look like. And having Steph back is, obviously, a huge, huge part of that now. The next step will be getting Klay [Thompson] back, but that won’t be till next season. But I think these last 20 games are really going to be a springboard into next year, so I think that energy will be high and remain high.”
Overshadowed by Curry’s return is the fact that Draymond Green was set to miss his fourth consecutive game because of left knee soreness. Kerr said Green underwent an MRI and the exam showed no structural damage in the knee. Kerr is hopeful that Green will be back in the next few days.
As for center Kevon Looney, he missed his third straight game because of left hip soreness. Kerr acknowledged being worried about Looney’s latest setback.
“That’s a concern and we’ll have an update [Friday],” Kerr said. “He had some momentum and he was playing really well for us. So this is a bump in the road hopefully, but we’ll have an update tomorrow when he has a chance to be evaluated by our doctors tonight.”