Steve Smith is paid good money by TNT to analyze basketball games. He’s paid to talk.
On two straight Golden State Warriors possessions during overtime very early Tuesday morning against the Portland Trail Blazers, he simply cracked up.
That’s it. No breakdown of how the play developed. No eagle-eye observation of a subtle screen, or evaluation of the shooter’s body control and form.
Just a helpless chuckle.
And his “analysis” was dead-on. Both times.
If you’ve watched Steph Curry hoop it up enough times, there comes a point when you just surrender. Sure enough, that was me blurting out “Aw, come on!” in protest after a few of his shots in overtime. And I was rooting for him.
Surrender seems to be what the NBA MVP voters did this week, too, making Curry the first unanimous winner of that award ever. Spanning the major professional team sports, it’s a small group. Only Wayne Gretzky (1982 Edmonton Oilers) and Tom Brady (2010 New England Patriots) have been unanimous MVPs.
There were forceful cases to be made for the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, but none of the voters would bite on those hooks. Curry got all 131 first-place votes, a year after getting 100 of 130 to beat James Harden for the award.
Beyond critical acclaim from the experts, Curry is a delight to fans on and off the court. I’ll leave it to my 8-year-old nephew Shane, who lives in Buffalo, but is sold on the kids’ kid who plays on the West Coast, his favorite player.
“I like his warmups, because he goes behind the back and through the legs and dribbles with both hands,” Shane said. “And gets a layup.
“I have seen one dunk; he shoots threes.”
On Monday, we were treated to much more than a glimpse at what makes Curry an MVP and, well, just plain ridiculous, at least if you stayed up until 1:45 a.m. on the East Coast.
Having played a total of 37 minutes in the previous three weeks because of ankle and knee injuries, Curry was penciled in for about 25 minutes in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals, his comeback game.
Then things got weird. The Warriors were down 10 at halftime and guard Shaun Livingston, one of the mild-mannered NBA gentlemen, was ejected for the first time in his 11-year career.
Suddenly, Golden State was forced to revert to its default position, whether Steph was ready or not. He wasn’t. Frankly, he stunk it up in the first half, certainly by his standards.
Through three quarters, he had missed all nine of his three-pointers. The good news for the Warriors was that momentum had begun to grind in their favor, and they led 86-85.
Then things got weirder, if you haven’t yet been exposed to the sheer absurdity of Steph Curry.
It was as if somebody had planted a remote video camera outside a bear’s den so we could watch the whole post-hibernation process, shaking off the winter and becoming a bear again, in real time.
He scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, then ripped Rip City for an NBA-record 17 in five minutes of overtime in a 132-125 victory, finishing with a cool 40. After his OT total reached 12 on a three for a 123-118 lead with 1:51 left, he stalked back up court, pointed at the floor and said, “I’m here . . . I’m back.”
Teammate Klay Thompson, usually stoic but now with a grin on his face, confirmed this, pointing at Steph: “He’s back.”
Even motormouth Charles Barkley was speechless during the studio post-game.
Another enduring image from Monday/Tuesday’s game will be Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen sitting on the sideline, mouth agape in disbelief and bewilderment.
It probably won’t challenge Crying Jordan for Internet viral supremacy, but still . . .
The Microsoft co-founder is the 45th richest person on this planet, at an estimated wealth of $17.7 billion.
He’s responsible for the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence Design and the Allen Institute for Cell Science. He helped launch the Allen Telescope Array so that it could cast eyes on the cosmos. Part of its mission is to search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
He has financed an aerial survey of elephants to conduct an accurate census of their population in 20 African countries. He’s a booster for universities, museums, the oceans, and is trying to fight the Ebola epidemic.
He has a species of Costa Rican flower fly named after him.
Paul Allen has been around. He’s seen some things.
He can’t wrap his head around Steph Curry.
My nephew Shane is here to enlighten. He likes Steph “because he’s on my favorite team.”
And the Warriors are his favorite team “because of Steph Curry.”