Gary Payton on stopping Stephen Curry: Pressure him 94 feet
Hall of Famer Gary Payton was the nightmare of many great scorers during the 90s, his strong-armed, quick-footed, and sharp-minded style of play made him the only point guard ever to earn the Defensive Player of the Year award, back in 1996.
“When you have a guy like Stephen Curry, who handles the basketball and then pulls up, my job would have been to pressure him 94 feet – don’t forget about him,” Payton said Tuesday on the Warriors Insider Podcast.
“Teams back off,” Payton said, adding that Curry can sense the opening. “Once he gets on that roll, he starts to feel it and then he gets one or two dribbles over half court and he makes that. I would pressure him the whole game. Pressure him.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers were cited as a team that took advantage on how to best defend the back-to-back MVP. Since he still had limited mobility and wasn’t doing backdoor cuts to the basket, everyone’s job was to bump him from screen to screen, making sure that if he made a shot, he had a collection of bruises to prove it.
“He doesn’t want to be on the floor; that takes a toll on you,” Payton said. “You’ve seen that happen to Dwyane Wade. It’s a lot different when you’re beating up on a guy and making him make tough shots and make difficult shots and pounding him.
“I would have to make (Curry) go to the bucket and I’d be really, really physical with him. Cleveland did a great job on him in The Finals when they beat up on him. They got him frustrated. Then he started worrying about going against LeBron, thinking about that. They were hitting him. They were pounding him.”
Curry shot 40.3 percent from the field in the seven-game series against the Cavaliers, which is almost 10 percent down from his regular season efficiency mark. Over the final three games, all resulting in Cleveland wins, his percentage dropped to 36.7 percent.
Payton pointed out that there are a few players in the league whose defense he admires, naming the likes of Draymond Green and Boston Celtics shooting guard Avery Bradley, who’s gained a reputation for making things as tough on Curry as anybody in the league.