After the Houston Rockets sent seldom-used rookie Nick Johnson to greet Steph Curry for the captains’ meeting moments before Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the mild-mannered Golden State Warriors superstar did a noticeable double-take indicating his displeasure. Where were James Harden, Dwight Howard, or Trevor Ariza? Based on his reaction to a handshake with Johnson, it certainly seemed that Curry took Houston’s choice of captain as a slight.
But the first-year guard from Arizona tells a different story. Not only have the Rockets used a deep rookie reserve as their de facto captain for weeks, but he didn’t think Curry was offended, either.
Here’s Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle on the non-incident:
After conjecture that the Rockets sending little-used rookie Nick Johnson for the pregame captain’s meeting with officials was a sign of disrespect for Warriors captain Stephen Curry, Johnson said that was not the intention at all and that Curry seemed to have no objection.
Johnson had picked up those responsibilities when Pat Beverley was injured in March.
“That’s what we’ve been doing this whole time,” Johnson said. “Me and KJ (McDaniels) were taking turns until he got hurt, but I’ve been doing it ever since. We’re not going to change what we do now.”
Nick Johnson and KJ McDaniels: The captains of a potential Western Conference champion. What a meteoric ascent for a pair of second-round picks!
Neither player is actually Houston’s leader, of course. It stands to reason that with Beverley absent, Kevin McHale simply prefers to have his full array of rotation players available to talk strategy in pre-game huddles. But Curry was surely unaware of the switch just prior to tip-off on Tuesday, leading to his look of annoyed confusion as he made his way back to Golden State’s bench.
Like the rest of us, though, he knows now. And even if Curry is still unaware of the reasoning behind Johnson’s captaincy, his apparent discontent would still be a “story” in name only.
Barring an unexpected changeup, the MVP and anonymous rookie will meet again in advance of Thursday’s Game 2 at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN.