De’Aaron Fox Braces for Mental and Physical Toll of Guarding Stephen Curry in Warriors-Kings Game 2

De’Aaron Fox Braces for Mental and Physical Toll of Guarding Stephen Curry in Warriors-Kings Game 2

Prior to the Warriors’ opening matchup against the Kings, a clip of J.R. Smith on JJ Redick’s Old Man & the Three podcast went viral in which Smith explained how Matthew Dellavedova “almost died” while trying to guard Steph Curry in the 2015 playoffs.

“No, literally almost died,” Smith told Redick. “We have footage of this man in the ice tub literally to his neck trying to guard this man…He could barely talk after, that’s how hard he was trying.”

De’Aaron Fox could relate, after guarding Curry for most of the first and fourth quarters in his team’s Game 1 win on Saturday.

“Did y’all see that clip of J.R. Smith? Talking about Delly?” Fox asked reporters after the game. “That sh—’s real. It’s real.”

What makes Curry so difficult to guard? He rarely stops moving. His relocation 3s, where he passes the ball and sprints around the court to get it back, have become the stuff of legend.

That physical exhaustion pairs with mental exhaustion from trying to track him, as Derrick White explained to Redick in an appearance on Redick’s pod earlier in the season.

“It’s 48 minutes of where is Steph? You gotta know where he is and find him on the court” White said. “There’s a constant paranoia.”

“There’s an element of, all right, we’re going to put multiple bodies on him. We’re going to chase him. We’re going to be physical. We’re going to wear him down,” Redick added. “And it seems like at this point in his career, with his conditioning and how he’s changed his body and his strength, it’s almost like, nah, he’s wearing you down.”

Fox experienced that firsthand on Saturday.

What made the assignment even more difficult for Fox was that he was picking Curry up from 3/4 court at times during the game. Per the NBA’s tracking data, Fox ran 3.07 miles in his team’s Game 1 victory. His average for the regular season was 2.50 miles traveled.

Players know how difficult their night is going to be when they face Curry. Patrick Beverley admitted that he stays up late when facing the Warriors. For Curry?

“I’m going to bed at 8 o’clock,” Beverley told ESPN’s Get Up show last year. “Mom, don’t call me. My girl, don’t call me.”

Maybe the most frustrating part of guarding Curry is that ultimately, good defense may not even matter. He’s the best tough shot-maker in the game. His 63.6 percent from 3 this season on shots with a defender within two feet of him was by far the best mark in the league, per its tracking data.

George Hill may have said it best as a member of the Cavs during the 2018 Finals. Hill told ESPN what it was like for the Cavs to try and stop Curry.

“You can play good defense. For instance, an example, Kevin Love guarded Curry one time. Shot clock’s going out. He turns, picks it up, fades, shoots it up to Jesus.”

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