Stephen Curry and the New York Knicks eyed each other from across the room during the 2009 draft. The Knicks sought their point guard of the future, Curry sought the lights of Madison Square Garden. But the two would never be united thanks to Don Nelson and the Warriors.
Ever since the Warriors selected Curry with the No. 7 pick, the selection before the Knicks, there have been rumors Don Nelson picked the Davidson point guard to spite New York. Nelson coached the Knicks for 54 games during the 1995-96 season before being fired, and he had full personnel control of the Warriors in 2009. But he denied the vendetta when he spoke to the New York Post:
The Hall of Fame coach roundly denied Donnie Walsh’s and Mike D’Antoni’s love affair with Curry influenced his opinion. Nelson told The Post on Saturday from Maui he would have taken Curry second in the draft that year, after Blake Griffin. James Harden was third.
“The guy’s a 10 as a human being, 10 as a player,” Nelson said. “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.”
Ranking draft prospects six years after the fact lends itself to some revisionism, but Nelson is probably being candid here. This comes from the man who coached the Run TMC Warriors and the early 2000s Mavs with Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki. Curry perfectly matched Nelson’s basketball ideal.
On the other hand, no one would scorn Nelson for sticking it to the Knicks. Anytime you can purposefully troll James Dolan, that’s an opportunity you have to take.
Whether Nelson selected Curry on merit or merely to troll the Knicks, he made one hell of a pick.