Stephen Curry, elite defender?

Stephen Curry, elite defender?
December 19, 2012, 1:45 pm
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Stephen Curry: "I wouldn’t call myself a lockdown defender by any stretch of the imagination." (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Stephen Curry, an elite defender?

Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson didn’t back away from his statement about his young guard.

“I said it before and people thought I was crazy, he’s an elite defender,” Jackson said in his pregame news conference before Tuesday night’s win against New Orleans.

Jackson has plenty of insight on what makes Curry an “elite” defender, at least in his opinion. It’s not the fourth-year guard’s on-ball defense that Jackson is praising, but rather his ability to be part of the coach’s team defense.

The coach rattled off a number of reasons: ball pressure, getting screened but working back into the picture, not quitting on plays, being in the right place in help rotation, and being part of the fray in securing rebounds.

Curry, not ready to call himself a lockdown defender, did say he is committed to containing the ball from a help-side standpoint and he buys into the goals of team defense.

“I wouldn’t call myself a lockdown defender by any stretch of the imagination,” Curry said. “But being able to be in the right positions and stay aggressive, and stick to our game plan, that’s my responsibility as part of that five-man defense.”

Jackson said the best defenders pay attention to the game plan and strategy of the coaching staff and that’s what Curry does so well. The coach also credits Curry’s defensive abilities to healthy ankles.

“All of those things are what you need to set the tone for your team defensively,” Jackson said. “When I talk about him getting healthy and playing at an elite level, it’s not just on the offensive end. He’s setting the tone for us defensively.”

It's easier to quantify how Curry’s physical ability to plant and cut helps him offensively; his numbers -- 19.4 points and 6.4 assists per game -- serve as tangible proof.

But defensive effort is not a measurable figure, so the words and opinion of Jackson offer necessary proof.