Jim Barnett has played with some of the most clutch players in NBA history, including Rick Barry, John Havlicek, Pete Maravich and Walt Frazier, and there’s something he learned from each of them.
“The great players never shy away from the tough shots and they’re willing to take that risk – because they know they’re going to be rewarded,” the CSN Bay Area Warriors TV analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Stephen Curry is like that. Klay Thompson is like that. They like the pressure. I’ve said before: Stephen Curry is a transformative player. He’s changing the way people look at the game, he’s changing the way people will start playing the game, and he’s spawning a new generation of potential players who say, ‘I don’t have to be 6-8, 265, like LeBron James. I don’t have to be able to dunk the basketball. I can look like the high school kid playing next door. I can learn to dribble. I can learn skills of dribbling and ball-handling and shooting.’ He’s giving a lot of people hope. But that quality of greatness comes forth. He came through (in Game 7).”
Curry scored 36 points, including 24 in the second half, in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals on Monday. He hit seven threes in Golden State’s 96-88 win, almost all of them with a hand in his face.
“He hit a few shots tonight that I think are prayers – and for a normal person, they would be bad shots,” Barnett said. “If you took Reggie Miller and you took all the great shooters and they took Steph Curry’s shots, their percentage would go way down. He takes what you would call bad shots, but they’re not bad shots for him. It’s unusual. Just totally unique.”
Curry and Thompson combined to hit 13 three-pointers in Game 7, this after coming for 17 three-pointers in Game 6.
That’s 30 threes in two games.
“There’s no comparison with the way (they) shoot, with the accuracy that they have,” Barnett said. “Stephen Curry made 402 threes this year. He shattered his own record, which was 286. No one would ever think of shooting from that kind of distance, but he does it better than anybody else.”
Both players have a quick release, but Thompson has the ability to square up to the basket in midair. Curry does that as well, but Thompson does it seemingly every game.
“No one shoots like Steph Curry, and no one (in the history of the game) really shoots like Klay Thompson,” Barnett said. “He’s oblivious to any kind of defender. He gets in this zone and it’s quite remarkable. It’s something to behold. But they are both unique, unique shooters.”
Barnett, who is in his 32nd year of calling Warriors games, has been amazed by Golden State’s two-year run of dominance.
“This is a basketball hotbed,” he said. “People love the Warriors. Of course this year they’ve taken on a lot more fans. With Stephen Curry getting the MVP award, everything has come to the front.”
While Curry, Thompson and other Warriors deserve a ton of credit, so does Steve Kerr, who always seems to push the right buttons with this group.
“Steve Kerr could be the governor of California and do a heck of a job,” Barnett said. “In fact, looking at the candidates that we have for president, if he put his name in, even at this late a date, I would write him in. He is a true leader. He hires great people, he empowers those people, he’s a great communicator, and he always says the right thing at the right time. He’s pretty remarkable. So they’re on a run right now. They were down 3-1. People doubted. I doubted. I knew that it would take a monumental effort to come back from 3-1. They had less than a four percent chance looking at history, but they’ve come back and done it. I love this Finals matchup. Now Cleveland is totally healthy, so now we can see who’s the best team.”