It's been five months since Stephen Curry has played in an NBA game after breaking the second metacarpal in his left hand in an early-season game against the Phoenix Suns. He has insisted all season long that he planned to return, with March set as the target. While Curry wanted to come back on March 1 against the Washington Wizards, after discussions with the coaches and training staff, it was agreed upon that he would get more practice and scrimmaging reps under him before he played in a Warriors jersey again.
The two-time league MVP spent Monday practicing with the Warriors' G League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors, and coach Steve Kerr told reporters last week that his return was likely to happen on March 5 against the Raptors. Wednesday evening, the franchise came to a final conclusion on Curry's return date as they officially announced that Curry is cleared to return on Thursday.
If Curry had it his way he would've been back on March 1, which was his original target date. However, when coaches and training staff agreed that he needed a bit more time before he made a full return, Kerr told reporters that Curry wasn't excited about the decision initially. Once the team officially announced Curry would suit up against the Raptors, the former league MVP shared his thoughts on being back via his Twitter account.
"He was not thrilled, but Steph is always very rational and easy to speak with," Kerr told reporters. "He put up a little bit of a fight, but also understood why we wanted to take extra precaution so he's OK with it."
Now, though, it seems Curry will return from his 58-game absence, but he'll be joining a team that is incredibly different from the one he played with early in the season. A number of the players he played with before getting hurt, including D'Angelo Russell, Glenn Robinson III, Alec Burks and Jacob Evans have been traded. Russell's move, in particular, was the most important, bringing in former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins to serve as a running mate for Curry moving forward. His integration into Golden State's system has so far been a success. He's averaging 19.9 points per game with Golden State, but fitting in alongside Curry will be his next test.
The Warriors' season, which was already on thin ice even with a healthy Curry, was fully derailed after his injury. At 14-48, Golden State has NBA's worst record by four games and is a virtual lock to own the odds for one of the top three picks in May's NBA Draft Lottery. Despite all this, though, having Curry back in the lineup this season is a positive as the All-Star guard can use these final 20 games of the season to re-acclimate himself to the speed of an NBA game before he's thrown back into the trenches next season with this team back at full health.
The Warriors hope to return to championship contention next season with a healthy Curry and Klay Thompson joining Wiggins and Draymond Green on a revamped roster. As LeBron James has proven this season, a year off after an extended streak of Finals appearances can do quite a bit of good, but rest is no substitute for health. The Warriors need Curry back at full strength if they hope to re-enter the championship picture, and his return this season will be a major step in getting there.