Stephen Curry exercised his modified First Amendment rights Monday by reminding his boss’ boss that sometimes the unspoken thought is the best one.
By now, we know that Joe Lacob decided to offer an analysis of former coach Mark Jackson’s failings before a group of fellow businessmen, a particularly rapt and therefore suspect audience. Businessmen love tales of underlings being given their comeuppance -- it’s like hunters pointing to those antlers over the fireplace and saying, “Yup, that was me.”
Lacob then apologized after the first hints of blowback, because, and let’s be fair here, the Warriors are going just fine right now without Lacob tilting at old abandoned windmills.
That's not the point, though -- Lacob didn’t say anything he hadn't said often privately that we didn't already know and say publicly. He and Jackson were Jed’n’Jim even before Jed’n’Jim knew they were going to be Jed’n’Jim.
The point is that Curry spoke out in defense of his former coach, gently and after Lacob's apology, but forcefully enough to make it clear that he will not let gratuitous slights to others who are owed a debt go without comment. Even if they are from the man who signs his checks.
And that’s the kind of leverage almost no athletes have.
In other words, Curry fully understands what kind of throw-weight he possesses, a realization that he matters far more and in more ways, and not just with the team he’s on but in the league for which he is one of the faces.
It isn’t that he told Lacob what for in the kindest way possible, though there is a joy in letting the boss have it for the right reasons. It is that he now can join LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant as forces for the players’ greater good, and with a lockout two years off being openly discussed already, Curry can lend his voice to CBA and other player betterment matters.
That, you see, is the other side of being a face of the league -- the responsibilities that come with it. It isn’t just jockeying for position for the cover of NBA 2K15 -- it’s about understanding how to work for the benefit of all players, and to provide them all with empowerment that, as in all sports, comes first with the voices of the most recognizable and admired players.
Curry is at that stage now, clearly and decisively. He is not just an indomitable jump shot, and never has been. He is a force in the new NBA, and all he has to do is understand the depth and breadth of his strength. Defending someone his boss had just finished slagging is a thing very few people dare do.
Then again, Curry has been the fulcrum of his team since the Andrew Bogut trade, and is the instrument of the Warriors’ national relevance. Frankly, Lacob should probably thank Curry for re-reminding him that Jackson did more than just provide him an easy rhetorical target.
And that someone who knows his own strength has a lot of strength worth fearing.