5.06.2015

Luke Walton: 17, Steph Curry: 3

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Luke Walton: 17, Steph Curry: 3

March 26, 2015

Stephen Curry is having a great season, doing a lot of winning, ruthlessly burying opponents with his three-pointers and free throws, breaking their spirit and then rubbing it in a bit. And that's just against other Warriors.

In the time-honored tradition of basketball, Curry likes to engage in shooting contests after team practices. Helps break up the monotony of hucking up hundreds of practice shots by yourself.

And I don't like to break this to you, but Choirboy Curry is not always what you would call a gracious winner. Ask Luke Walton, a Warriors assistant coach who retired as a player two seasons ago and was a decent three-point shooter himself 33 percent career, to Curry's 44 percent.

Walton and Curry square off on a semi-regular basis after practice. It's a three-point shootout with simple rules. Walton shoots from five spots behind the arc. At each spot, he gets three shots. On the third shot at each spot, if he makes it, he keeps going until he misses. Once he misses, he moves to the next spot.

Curry gets to shoot from only two spots, same rules. And Walton gets to pick Curry's two spots.

One point for each make.

Curry doesn't win every time. Not long ago, Walton said Curry enjoyed a 3-2 series lead. Walton described one recent contest.

Walton shot first. He usually scores around 17 points. On this occasion, at his final spot Walton sank 12 in a row, to run his score to 18.

"So I'm talkin' trash to Steph," Walton says. "He's sitting on the floor watching me do my five spots. He gets up. I get to pick his two spots, so I put him on the wing first long shot, hard angle. He runs off 18 straight without missing, and never even has to go to his second spot."

Curry was a gentleman about it, right?

"Wellll," says Walton, "I probably started it by talking a little trash, but as he released his last shot, I guess he knew it was going in, as the ball is going through the net, he's doing a belly slide through the lane."

Walton smiles, adds, "He enjoys his victories. He's very competitive. It's a good trait to have in the business we're in. It's not always a great trait in regular life, but in this business, it's a good one."

Last add Walton: "I won the last time we played."

These little shooting games are a basketball tradition. The Showtime Lakers used to have post-practice shootouts with serious money on the line. Magic Johnson was an enthusiastic participant. Head coach Steve Kerr says Michael Jordan liked to take down teammates in shooting games.

Walton had a teammate named Kobe Bryant, who is famous for his fiery competitive nature. Walton says Bryant and Curry are similar in that both are relentless when it comes to working on their games after practice, but Kobe has a harder edge.

"Every once in a while Kobe would get into competitions with the guys, but not too often," Walton says. "His competitive level was, well, it wasn't fun. Even if it was just a play-around game after practice, he wanted to kill people. So we didn't include him in our shooting competitions."

Sometimes it's hard for a gunslinger to find action. I asked Draymond Green if he gets into shooting contests with Curry or Klay Thompson, and Green said, "I used to, but it killed my confidence, so I run instead now. Losing's not good."

Maybe it's not, but Kerr seems willing to take his lumps from Curry, since his doing so might help keep Curry sharp for the real games.

Kerr, the NBA's all-time best three-point percentage shooter, doesn't shoot threes with Curry. They go at it from the free-throw line. Kerr was an 86.4 percent free-throw shooter. Curry's career mark is 90 percent.

Simple game. The first guy shoots two, then the next guy shoots two. First shooter to 20 points wins. The catch: A pure swish is worth two points. One or two rebounders stand under the hoop to judge whether balls graze the rim.

"We've probably played about 20 times," Kerr says. "I beat him three times; he's won about 17. I've made something like 120 out of 126, and I've lost 17 out of 20. When he needs to, he swishes. When I need to, I don't."

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