DENVER -- Warriors point guard Stephen Curry isn't the type to get depressed. He's more of the worrying type. And about a year ago, after his bid to return to action ended with the decision to have another surgery on his right ankle, he was in full fret mode.
Golden State general manager Bob Myers could see it when he visited Curry in Los Angeles, where Dr. Richard Ferkel performed arthroscopic surgery, Curry's second surgery in less than a year. What do you say to someone who does everything right but can't escape disappointment? What do you do when the nice guy keeps finishing last?
Myers searched for the words.
"I said it's going to happen for you," he recalled. "It will happen. Just stick with it. Don't get down."
It probably seems like forever ago when Curry was a giant question mark hanging over the franchise. On April 18, 2012, when he stood in the Warriors locker room and revealed he was done for the season, no one knew if he'd ever be the player who dazzled Warriors fans as a rookie.
When he sprained his ankle in October, many wondered if he could ever handle the physical rigors of the NBA. When he struggled the opening month, many questioned if he was even a starter.
Now, he enters Game 1 of the Warriors' first-round playoff series against Denver on Saturday as arguably the best player in the series. Elite minds in the NBA fear him, his name lingers in the background of MVP conversations, and his four-year, $44 million contract makes it appear that the Warriors got over on him.
The fourth-year guard out of Davidson said he always believed he could be this good. But for it to happen so fast, even he sometimes pauses to take it all in.
"It's been really crazy," said Curry, whose infant daughter, Riley, helped keep things in perspective while he recovered from surgery. "Missing 40 games last year and battling the ankle surgery. Now having a great year, as a team and individually, getting that first playoff experience. ... It's been a great ride."
The mantra for Curry and Warriors management, for the better part of two years, was get healthy. To let them tell it, they knew he was a star in the making.
Many had forgotten about the baby-faced rookie who under Don Nelson nearly came from behind to steal the Rookie of the Year Award from Sacramento's Tyreke Evans. But the Warriors hadn't. They figured he just had to get and stay on the court, which some 15 sprains of the same ankle in three seasons kept preventing.
And all season long, as the Warriors manufactured 47 wins, many around the league have echoed that sentiment. LeBron James. Doc Rivers. Kobe Bryant. Gregg Popovich. And they all said the same thing -- the only thing holding back Curry was injuries.
"He's improved, but really it's just healthwise," said Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, who came into the league with Curry. "He averaged 18 or something as a rookie. But this is the first year he's really been healthy, his ankle wasn't bothering him. He's just showing everybody what he can do."
The Warriors bet $44 million they were right about Curry. When he signed an $11 million-per-year extension on Halloween -- after he'd sprained his ankle again in the preseason -- there was no shortage of people who thought the Warriors were nuts.
But the criticism started to wane after he had 31 points, nine assists and six rebounds while almost single-handedly carrying the Warriors to victory at Dallas in mid-November. It waned more when he torched Chris Paul and the Clippers at Oracle in early January.
By the time he left Madison Square Garden on Feb. 27, after torching the Knicks for 54 points in a losing effort, it was all gone.
"In hindsight, you look back and think how could they think about not (giving him an extension)," TNT and NBA TV analyst Greg Anthony said. "He's put himself in that elite category of point guards. But with that category is going to come a lot more responsibility and higher expectations. I certainly think he's up for it."
Warriors management feared Curry would have gotten a max offer had he become a free agent. Now there's little doubt he would've. But Myers said the best part is not the vindication but watching someone reap what he sewed.
Myers said Curry is going to get better because of how much he works on his game. And with Curry's natural talent, Myers won't prognosticate how good Curry can be. He's just going to enjoy watching it unfold.
"If you have a healthy Steph Curry, you have a really high ceiling," Myers said. "I don't think he's reached his peak. I certainly think he can become an A-list guy. His career is on the incline. He's going to get better. It's just a question of how much better he's going to get."
Monte Poole: David Lee's play is likely to decide the series.
George Karl, above, has come a long way from his Warriors days as "Furious George."
Warriors try to make an altitude adjustment. Page 3
Series' key matchups. Page 3
Warriors' teamwide devotion to faith plays a key role in their winning chemistry.