Originally written on NBA 24/7 365  |  Last updated 1/20/12
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The six-minute Eddy Curry sighting we witnessed during Miami’s 98-87 win over the Lakers probably couldn’t have gone much better.  Curry checked into the game to a nice ovation and immediately chased Pau Gasol all the way out to the three-point line.  He bent his knees and extended his arms as if he was interested in trying to guard him.  He lost track of Gasol after being sent to double Kobe Bryant, but Pau had drifted all the way into the corner for a long jumper, so it’s not like his only responsibility was to keep track of him and he lost him for a layup.  He aggressively doubled and got the ball out of Kobe’s hands, he just botched the recovery.  On the ensuing offensive possession he caught the ball on a cut through the middle and scored an up-and-under layup around Gasol.

 

It took just 30 seconds or so for Curry to score his first NBA basket since December 11th, 2009.  In the process he made a play that very few men of his size can make, which is why he remains such an intriguing prospect even at the age of 29.  No disrespect to Joel Anthony, who plays very hard and remains Miami’s best option for the moment, but he’ll never be capable of finishing under those circumstances. 

Curry was able to make a couple more offensive contributions in his limited run.  He confidently knocked down a pair of freethrows as fans chanted his name, and he managed to get up high enough to tip dunk a ball in the second half.  His only missed shot was on a post-up opportunity on the right block.  Rather than backing down and going to his jump hook, he decided to face his man and drive baseline.  It was something I don’t recall seeing from him in his Knicks days, and it was actually a pretty impressive move.  He showed a quick first step and got all the way to the rim where he simply missed the shot.  It wasn’t completely uncontested, but it was certainly makeable. 

Curry continued to struggle on defense throughout his stint.  He and Udonis Haslem seemed to be playing some sort of zone, and they kept losing Troy Murphy, who continuously slipped out to the perimeter and knocked down a string of three consecutive jumpers.  If it was a man-to-man situation and Curry repeatedly allowed his man to shoot easy shots I’d be more concerned, but this was some miscommunication-type stuff in his first game with a new team.  It’s understandable at this point.  If he still hasn’t figured it out after 10 or 15 games then it becomes a problem, but right now Heat fans should be encouraged by the simple fact that he still appears to belong on the offensive end of an NBA floor.  His tools don’t seem to have rusted.  He’s still got that touch, and everything he did on offense looked fluid and comfortable.  He also had a bounce in his step like he did in his younger years.  Remember, Curry was an excellent athlete when he came into the league.  Amazingly, he was still an above-average athlete with the Knicks even though he was overweight.  

He didn’t drop 20 on the Lakers, but the Eddy Curry I saw last night looked like the guy from the Knicks… minus 30 or 40 pounds.  Now, can the Heat work him into form on the defensive end?  Based on what I saw last night, I’d say they can.  As poor as his instincts were, he looked relatively energetic.  All he has to do is continue to care and he’ll be fine.  I have little doubt that if Curry makes a legitimate effort to learn the system and gives his best on the defensive end then he’ll be able to (at worst) blend in with Miami.  I don’t think anyone’s asking him to be Dwight Howard–he just needs to be good enough to make it worthwhile to put him out there.  Last night’s 6 points were neutralized by the 8 he allowed on botched rotations.  That’s okay at this early stage, but over the next few weeks he’ll have to get that figured out if he wants to be an integral part of a championship-caliber team.  His attitude seems to be where it should be.

Eddy’s right; he’s still got a long way to go.  His acknowledgement of that makes me feel a bit more confident in him.  All he needs to do is stay healthy and become a student of Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem.  They’ll teach him how to fit in with this team if he genuinely wants to learn.  His ability will take care of the rest.

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