MIAMI -- Reigning NBA MVP LeBron James said he's not at all surprised by the way Warriors point guard Stephen Curry has played this season.
He said he expected it.
"Absolutely," James said after Wednesday's shootaround. "And this is what he expected out of himself as well. But when you're dealing with injuries, it kind of hampers your game. I mean I've watched him a lot, went to see him a few times in college, so I knew what he was capable of doing. It's good to see him play at a high level right now. Health has a lot to do with it."
James and the Miami Heat seem keenly aware of the roll Curry is on as they prepare to host the Warriors Wednesday night. Miami's leaders said they aren't taking the Warriors lightly though Golden State hasn't won in Miami since March 2008 (0-4).
"This is a very, very good team. Coach Jackson has done an unbelievable job with the team," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "They've got the right group of guys. This is going to be a tough game. This is a game they're going to make us move around a lot, going to challenge us defensively. On offense we've got to stay on the attack and not let them lull us to sleep with their zone or their trap, etc. So we've got to stay on the attack. And on the defensive end, we've got to be aware and we've all got to stay together. Otherwise it will be a long night."
The Warriors have won seven of eight, including four in a row on the road. And Curry has been the catalyst for that success. Over his past eight games, he is averaging 23 points, 8.1 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.0 steals in 39.6 minutes. And during the same stretch, he has averaged only 2.4 turnovers, a big reason the Warriors are 7-1 in those games.
"He's always had this potential," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Curry. "It's really been primarily his health (holding him back). He's been able to play the first 21 games (injury) free. That's the biggest thing. When he came into the league as a rookie, you already saw his greatness. His mind. His skill level. His shooting ability. He's playing right now with the same type of confidence and freedom he played with in college. You see his efficiency numbers are great -- going through the roof particularly the last three weeks."
James, Spoelstra and Wade called Curry and second-year guard Klay Thompson the best shooting backcourt in the league. They stressed the importance of not only being aware of their outside shooting, but talked about keeping the pressure on them and making them work.
"They have two of the best shooters this game has ever seen in Curry and Thompson," Wade said. "(They) can shoot it. They have these green lights that I used to have before. That is awesome for them. They're just playing with a lot of confidence."
James has experience with both Warriors guards. He got to practice with Thompson this summer during Team USA training camp. Thompson was part of the select squad who practice against James and the eventual gold medal team.
James and Curry go even farther back. Curry, then with Davidson, was an instructor at James' summer camp. When Curry gained national fame in the NCAA tournament, James was one of his biggest fans, even went to watch Curry play a few times.
He said he was drawn to Curry by his ability to make his teammates better.
"Can anyone name one of his teammates in college?" James asked the throng of media. "Right now. Go. . . . My point exactly. And he raised all their levels to another height because he was able to transcend their games and play at that high level. So I kind of gravitated towards that."
James said Curry is now taking the Warriors to another level.
"He's definitely MVP for that team, for sure," James said. "And with the way that they're playing as a team, he'd get a few votes, of course. It's early in the season. . . . No one would've said that they'd be where they are right now -- second in their division and in the middle of the pack as far as playoffs. So he's definitely playing at a high clip right now."
Miami will start with point guard Mario Chalmers on Curry. But if the Heat is like most teams, it will give Curry different looks. You can expect the Heat to pressure Curry with speedy backup Norris Cole and try to make life tough for him by putting defensive specialist Shane Battier on him.
And don't be surprised if James -- a first-team All-NBA defense selection -- winds up on Curry, especially if the game is close late.
Wade said he had a defensive strategy for Curry.
"You just pray when he shoots it that it don't go in," Wade said. "You got to try to put some pressure on him, man. But he's going to get his shots. A guy who can come across half court and shoot the shot the same way he does right by the three-point line, he's going to get his shots. You've just got to try to put pressure on him and hope he misses. Like I said, there's going to be a lot of praying tonight every time he shoots."