Stephen Curry may be part of the best shooting backcourt in basketball, but all that talent comes to nothing if his chronic ankles act up and take away the base for his shot. On Wednesday immediately after Game 2, Curry said that if Game 3 were on Thursday, his ankle would not allow him to play.
Luckily, the game is on Friday.
Does one day really make that much difference? I asked several athletic trainers and doctors for their insight into what the Golden State Warriors' medical staff could be doing to make sure that Curry is ready to play.
The first thing that they pointed to was that time is the best healer. While Curry doesn't have that much time between games to work with Chad Bergman, the team's athletic trainer, there is plenty of time to get through the worst of the healing and treat the ankle. There's a full day for treatment and even more time if the trainer gets creative and keeps the player in the training room overnight (or more likely in the NBA, brings the treatment to the player, at home or in the hotel room).
For a normal player, the warm-up before a game is simple but is not like the old-school calisthentics and shootarounds people may picture. Tape is often put aside for custom-fitted ankle braces. Stretches are being pushed aside by research in favor of pressure massages. Even shooting is done scientifically, using research to create a pattern of muscular firing.
Curry does not use an apparent brace for his ankle, suggesting either a low custom brace or the use of tape to brace the ankle. Tape can be adjusted depending on feel and circumstances. For anyone who has seen a pro trainer taping someone with both speed and precision, it can look like magic, but it is again based on science. The downside is that tape can loosen with moisture and movement, necessitating a re-taping at halftime or even more often.
There is a difference with Curry's ankle as well. Curry's chronic problems, ranging from recurrent sprains to two surgeries to correct ligament and tendon issues, make his ankles more of a challenge.
At the same time, Curry knows his ankles, while Bergman knows what works for them. This isn't the first time (or the last) that they'll be racing the clock and the schedule to get Curry on the floor. There's also an advantage in that Curry understands how things feel for his ankle and has a good kinesthetic sense of his own limitations.
While all the normal tools of the athletic trainer's trade are available, such as ice, anti-inflammatories, braces and boots, situations like this often have him reaching deeper into his bag of tricks. If necessity is the mother of invention, you should see what a desperate athletic trainer can do.
Several athletic trainers suggested that they would focus on pool activities. Of course, the Warriors would need to have this facility, and it is unknown whether Oracle Arena has it. At home, most teams have this at their practice facility or have access to a nearby facility. Water/pool exercises would allow movement without the full pressure of Curry's body weight as well use water pressure to work against the swelling.
Newer technologies like the pressure massage recovery units and cold compression wraps could also factor in. Curry has been known to use hyperbaric pods in the past, despite spotty evidence for effectiveness, high cost and low availability. In essence, Curry and Bergman might try anything legal at this point in the season.
Coach Mark Jackson called Chad Bergman the "MVP of the series." If his work on Curry's ankles leads to a rain of threes and a Warriors win, many people might agree.