OAKLAND -- Stephen Curry never forgets a slight. He doesn't dwell on them, but they tend to rest uneasily in his gut. They never, ever go completely away. More than anything, being underappreciated drives his greatness.
Which is why anticipation will be in the air Wednesday night at Staples Center, where Curry confronts the Ball family for the first time.
Thanks to the fabricated celebrity/infamy of LaVar Ball, the point guard battle between his son, Lonzo, and Curry is the most intriguing subplot of Warriors vs. Lakers, which otherwise is a game pitting the championship favorite against a team dreaming of simply reaching the playoffs.
It was LaVar Ball who last February proclaimed his son, then a UCLA freshman, to be better than Curry, a two-time NBA MVP.
"I have the utmost confidence in what my boy is doing," LaVar Ball said. "He's better than Steph Curry to me. Put Steph Curry on UCLA's team right now and put my boy on Golden State and watch what happens."
Ball has since reiterated his stance, saying Curry is "really good," but that Lonzo youth and larger, 6-foot-6, frame will allow him to surpass the Warriors point guard.
Asked about LaVar Ball's comments on Tuesday, Curry did not engage.
"Nah. It's more comic relief for me," he said after practice. "I need that from time to time."
For the record, UCLA was ousted by Arizona in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament last March 10. Two weeks later, on March 24, Kentucky knocked the Bruins out of the NCAA Tournament in the third round.
The Warriors posted the best record in the NBA and went on to win The Finals.
Rather than boast or make comparisons, Curry implored the vocal critics of Lonzo Ball, whose NBA career is off to an unimpressive start, to exhibit a bit of patience.
"He's a rookie," Curry said. "He's going through ups and downs like every rookie has, whether you're highly touted or not. It's all a learning experience, trying to find your way and be comfortable.
"My perception is he's working through that. I've always said he's a great talent. He loves to play basketball, so he'll be able to fight through all of that and have a great career."
Some of the critics are advocating the Ball change the mechanics of his jump shot, which is unorthodox to say the least. Curry came to Ball's defense.
"He's not the first person that the peanut wants to chime in and tell people how to play the game," Curry said. "He's made shots shooting like that before. I'm pretty sure he'll figure it out, what that means in the NBA game. That's for him to decide."
Curry also recalled his early days as rookie with the Warriors, long before he became an MVP candidate, much less the first unanimous winner of the award.
"I hope you didn't judge me off my first 20 games in the league, either," he said.
Twenty games into Curry's rookie season, he was doing just fine as a combo guard. He was shooting 47.6 percent, including 37.9 percent from deep, and averaging 4.9 assists per game. He wasn't much on defense, though, and the Warriors were 6-14.
Twenty games into Lonzo Ball's career, the pure point guard is shooting 30.9 percent, including 24.5 percent from deep, and averaging 7.1 assists. He isn't much on defense, either, and the Lakers are 8-12.
All of which means Wednesday's battle is veteran-vs.-rookie, the accomplished star against someone aspiring to that level. Curry recognizes that, and it's a good bet Lonzo does too, even if both players seem to shrug off LaVar's shrill promotion of self and son.
Curry will want to excel not to embarrass Lonzo or silence LaVar but because every game is an opportunity to prove his worth.