When the Golden State Warriors selected Stephen Curry in the 2009 NBA draft, was the pick a form of retaliation against the New York Knicks?
Then Warriors head coach Don Nelson, who knew the Knicks were very interested in Curry, may have had it in for his former employer for dismissing him in March 1996, according to one media outlet.
Curry, who played college ball for Davidson, was the seventh overall pick in that year’s pro basketball draft. Although a lot of so-called experts claimed he would only be an average NBA player, Curry has become the breakout star of the 2014-2015 NBA campaign, earning league MVP honors and setting the record for three-pointers made in a season. In college, he was named Southern Conference Player of the Year twice, set the all-time scoring record for both Davidson and the Southern Conference, and also set the NCAA single-season record for three-point shots made.
The Curry-led Warriors are heading into the NBA playoffs final round starting Thursday, June 4, against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now retired and living in Hawaii, Don Nelson, 75, is a five-time NBA champion as a player with the Boston Celtics and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a head coach. He was three-time NBA Coach of the Year.
Did Nelson, who had a 30-year career in NBA coaching, actually try to thwart the Knicks’ draft plans?
“One conspiracy theory charges Nelson with taking Curry over [Arizona power forward Jordan] Hill to spite the Knicks, who unceremoniously fired him midseason at disgruntled Patrick Ewing’s request,” the New York Post claimed.
Don Nelson, who had two coaching stints with the Warriors (1988-1995 and 2006-2010), has denied the allegation that he was doing the opposite of “currying” favor with the Knicks, however.
“[Stephen Curry is] a 10 as a human being, 10 as a player. We would’ve taken him No. 2. I saw him in the NCAA Tournament vs. St. Mary’s and fell in love with him. People were saying he didn’t have a handle to be a point guard. I saw a point guard the whole way. He had a handle, could shoot, and be creative. In Davidson, he wasn’t asked to make plays for others. I thought he was going to be terrific. I saw him as an All-Star. Not an MVP this soon but certainly All-Star caliber.”
Las Vegas has installed the Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors as a strong favorite to win the NBA championship. Don Nelson agrees. “I have them all the way and rooting for them. I like their depth, and Steve Kerr is the whole package.”
[Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images Sport]