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Between injury and the NBA suspension for the coronavirus, Stephen Curry played just 1 game from December 2019 to December 2020.
Curry used that break to get in better shape, get stronger, and refresh himself mentally.
Curry is now more physically dominant, motivated, and has extended his prime at 33 years old.
Five straight Finals runs had taken a toll on Stephen Curry, mentally and physically.
Playing into June for five straight seasons had put Curry in "catch-up mode" every offseason, his trainer Brandon Payne says.
"That really put us in the offseason six to eight weeks behind everybody else that had already gotten started on their offseasons," Payne told Insider.
Then, Curry received an unusual break.
Just five games into the 2019-20 season, Curry broke his left hand, sidelining him until March 5. He returned for one game, missed the next two, and then the NBA season was suspended for the coronavirus pandemic.
Curry then didn't return to an NBA floor for almost 10 months. The Golden State Warriors weren't invited to the bubble in Disney World, and the 2020-21 season didn't kick off until December 2020.
Curry used that nearly unprecedented break to mentally refresh himself and physically improve himself.
"I was like, I have to really take advantage of this window in time to get my body in shape, get stronger, get more efficient with every movement, work on my skill set," Curry said on "The Rex Chapman Show" in April. "That I could come back with fresh legs and not be your normal 33-year-old coming back on the court."
Curry has returned with a vengeance. He is leading the NBA in scoring at 31.8 points per game and has broken shooting and scoring records. He'll earn MVP votes for leading a short-handed Warriors squad into the playoff race.
Warriors assistant coach Bruce Fraser told The East Bay Times' Wes Goldberg that the NBA is witnessing a new and improved Curry: "Steph 2.0."
"We got some of that time back last year," Payne said, "and I think you're seeing the results of that this year."
Curry got physically better in his time off
Though Curry wasn't returning to play in NBA games this summer, he trained as if he was.
According to Goldberg, Curry added five pounds of muscle this summer, working himself into playing shape like his peers in the bubble.
Payne said his work with Curry focused on a few core principles: change of direction, acceleration, deceleration, and dynamic stability.
Payne's drills force Curry to move and expend energy before hoisting a shot, which must always be done with perfect form.
For example, a 50-second drill where Curry had to run end to end and make six corner three-pointers before time expired.
"Most players will get really frustrated at that because the movement involved in that is really taxing and really difficult," Payne said.
Curry routinely beats it.
Payne said Curry is now stronger and more physical, capable of muscling past defenders and operating through contact.
Curry also told Chapman that his stamina is improved.
"I try to counter [defenses] by trying to never stay in the same spot for more than one second, covering as much ground as possible, and trying to never get tired," Curry said. "And over the course of my 34-35 minutes a game, you're gonna tire guys out and get more space."
Curry's teammate Draymond Green may have put it best.
"Teams are terrified of him - and everywhere he runs on the floor, with or without the ball, teams are terrified," Green told reporters after Curry scored 41 points in a May 4 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. "That type of gravity, he pulls a lot of weight."
Mentally refreshed and motivated
It's not just that Curry is physically improved - the long break both refreshed and motivated him, mentally.
"I do think that break - he had like 18 months where he played like five games - helped him a lot," The Athletic's Marcus Thompson, who wrote a biography on Curry, said on the "Bill Simmons Podcast." "I think watching the bubble did something to him. Steph was out the game for a while, and I think he missed it."
The Warriors' fortunes changed a lot over a year. Kevin Durant left in free agency in 2019, and Andre Iguodala was traded that same offseason. Klay Thompson missed all of last season with a torn ACL, then tore his Achilles in November, forcing him to miss another season.
A slow start to this season only fueled rumblings that Curry was past his prime and had been carried by an all-world supporting cast.
The Ringer's Logan Murdock said on Simmons' podcast that Curry had taken note of all of the doubts.
"He reads every single thing about him," Murdock said. "Probably on par with Kevin [Durant] in terms of reading what's written about him. And he internalizes a lot of that stuff. I think there's a release that's coming out of him right now in the form of basketball."
Fraser told Golberg that he could see Curry was "chasing greatness" with his intense offseason work.
Curry isn't satisfied yet.
"He's nowhere near topped-out physically," Payne said. "He's still getting better physically. He's still getting better from the skill standpoint."
Payne said the constant flow of headlines about Curry setting scoring records for a player his age made him laugh this season because there's more to come.
"He's the first guy 33 and older to do this. He's the first guy is 33 and older to do that. And I'm just kind of laughing," Payne said. "I guess we're going to be keeping these guys that keep stats like that in business for the next five or six years because there's going to be a whole lot of, 'He's the first players to do this after 34' next year. And then after 35 the following year."
A lost season for Curry - the kind that a player on the wrong side of 30 might rue - may have led to a rebirth for the two-time MVP.
"This last nine months before the season started was huge for me to kind of reset and rejuvenate myself, mentally and physically," Curry said. "Obviously, I'm reaping the benefits of that right now."
Read the original article on Insider