OAKLAND -- Somewhere behind a big blue curtain Thursday, Stephen Curry was doing more than taking practice jump shots. He was, for the first time in weeks, engaged in a full-contact, 3-on-3 scrimmaging with his Warriors teammates.
It was enough to send a quiet hallelujah through the team facility, for it's the best indication yet that Curry's 24-day absence is ending and he'll be back on the court very soon.
"I doubt he'll play tomorrow; with the back-to-back, I don't think it makes much sense," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "I think he's probably going to want to. But I would say it's more likely that he plays Saturday.
"If all goes well, I expect him to play Saturday. But even if it goes well, I would not expect him to play tomorrow."
So while it's unlikely Curry will be in the lineup against Charlotte on Friday -- and reserve Omri Casspi (right ankle sprain) is listed as questionable for that game -- anticipate the team leader being on the court Saturday against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Though Curry has been out since Dec. 4, when he sprained his right ankle at New Orleans, the Warriors have won nine of 10 games while he was out of the lineup.
Though those numbers suggest Curry was not missed, he definitely was, particularly on offense. The Warriors experienced declines in, most notably, field-goal percentage, 3-point shooting percentage and assist totals. They were leading the NBA in scoring, averaging 117 points per game when Curry was sidelined. They've averaged 105.8 without him and have fallen into second place behind the Rockets.
Most startling, the Warriors failed to break 50 points in four of their last six halves.
"I showed the guys a slide of our stats without Steph and we're dead last in 3-point shooting percentage. Dead last. Who would have guessed?" Kerr said late Wednesday night. "But we're by far the best defensive team."
That has been the tradeoff. And Kerr believes there no reason the defense can't continue to excel while the offense begins its resurgence when Curry returns.
"It'll be a little different, but Steph is a very good defender," Kerr said. "What's been different is we've been able to consistently put a bunch of 6-7 guys out there, so when we do switch there's not a height disadvantage.
"But we've missed Steph's ability to play the passing lanes, put pressure on the ball, cause some havoc with his speed and quickness. It'll be a little different, but I think the attention to detail defensively has been good in part because we knew without Steph we weren't going to have that explosiveness game in and game out."