OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry looks tired. His shoulders slump a bit, and he leans back in toward his locker, and his voice barely rises above a whisper. He looks like a boxer who has gone 10 rounds. Only this is before the basketball game. And he is not tired. He is conserving. This is how you make it through a long and draining NBA season. You recharge when there are a few spare moments. You save what you can save, when you can save it.
There is a reality gap in the NBA, a gap perhaps larger than in any other sport. Basketball is a fun game to play. Little kids play it on the playground when they heave the ball to the basket with all their might. Middle school kids play it in their driveways, bouncing basketballs over pebbles and ice, shooting with their gloves on. High school kids play it in the gymnasium during PE. College kids play it in front of raucous crowds and leaping cheerleaders and pep bands. Adults play it in YMCAs, weekly games, one guy everyone calls Gunner because he never passes, another who wears goggles like he's Kurt Rambis, another who wears knee braces on both legs and is just one mistimed cut away from blowing out his Achilles. Again.
But NBA basketball is not a game, not like that. It's a job.