The reality already has set in for Warriors point guard Stephen Curry and his sprained right ankle. And it was punctuated by Golden State's sixth straight loss, 99-87 to the visiting Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
After trying so hard to get back in the court, Curry sounded as if he'd embraced the truth that his season is over. After pressuring trainers, seeing a laundry list of specialists and biting his lip through the pain, Curry's gears were shifted to offseason recovery.
"Once we came to the conclusion we only had a week left and I wasn't going to be able to play," Curry said, "I guess the decision was pretty much made for me."
Before when he watched games, he pined to get back on the floor. But his hopes for a late-season return have been dashed by a still-not-100-percent right ankle.
Curry sat out his 23rd straight game. He watched the Lakers lead by as much as 23 without guard Kobe Bryant (left shin). He watched Los Angeles big man Pau Gasol post a triple-double (22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists) by exploiting Warriors' rookie big men Jeremy Tyler and Mickell Gladness. He watched rookie point guard Charles Jenkins register 11 assists in 32 minutes since guard Nate Robinson was sidelined.
Curry has watched a lot this year. By season's end, he will have missed miss 40 games because of that right ankle. He sprained it four times this season: at Sacramento in an exhibition game on Dec. 20, vs. Chicago on Dec. 26, at Phoenix on Feb. 22, and vs. Dallas on March 10. Last season, he missed a total of eight games thanks to four ankle sprains.
Like most Warriors fans, Curry's sights are now set for next year and making sure his ankle is like new. He said now that he's done for the year, everything will slow down. He expects his ankle should be healed in about a month, allowing him to begin working on it in earnest.
He said his offseason will be largely dedicated to improving his durability of the ankle -- maybe an hour a day of extra work just on the ankle. He said surgery is not needed, and he doubts it will become necessary this offseason.
Curry said Summer League would be a good target date for him to test the ankle. Practicing with the team in Las Vegas would be his first NBA-level work since spraining it against visiting Dallas on March 10. Curry also vowed to wear a brace regularly next season.
"I wanted to go out and get some minutes, test it out and feel confident going into next season that the ankle's going to hold up," Curry said. "I just have to use my summer wisely to get to that point. I've got four months, so there's no reason why it shouldn't be ready to go by October."
As for his contract extension, that seems even more up in the air now.
The Warriors can sign Curry, completing the third of his four-year rookie deal, to a contract extension by Oct. 31. But both Curry and the Warriors might want to skip that this summer.
Golden State might not want to make the commitment given Curry's ankle issues. Curry might not want to sign under these circumstances, when he would almost certainly get far less money than previously expected.
"When you have an injury like this," Curry said, "you always have some doubts and some concerns when it comes to contract negotiations -- especially my first go-round at it. Whether that happens or not, I want to be (with the Warriors) and be a part of where we're going. So it'll be great if we both met somewhere. But if not, I've got a season to play next year and to continue to get better. Whatever happens, happens."
Curry said he's heard all the fans' conspiracy theories about Golden State's tanking. He said fans have told him they think he's sitting out to help the Warriors preserve their draft pick. The Warriors, if they finish in the bottom seven of the league, have a 75 percent chance of keeping their first-round pick -- which goes to Utah if it's the eighth pick or lower.
"That's definitely a topic that's been out there," Curry said of tanking. "But these injuries we've had, they're not fabricated, they're not a plot to keep the pick and lose games on purpose. Nobody plays basketball to do that."
His previous two games coming off the bench, Robinson had totaled 58 points on 21-for-38 shooting with 15 assists.
Since the Warriors don't have a third point guard, forward Dominic McGuire and swingman Klay Thompson handled point guard duties when Jenkins wasn't on the floor.
Warriors (22-39) at Dallas (35-28), 5:30 p.m. CSNBA+
How low can you go?
The Warriors are likely to keep their lottery pick in this summer's NBA draft if they finish in the league's bottom seven:
Rank Team Record
6t. New Jersey 22-41
6t. Toronto 22-41
8 Warriors 22-39
9 Detroit 23-39
10 Minnesota 25-38