STATELINE — Dell Curry went face first into Lake Tahoe last year after losing a bet to his son, Steph. It was a bet created by their caddies and the Currys weren’t involved in the “hard conversations.”
This year, the hard conversations, and lobbying, have begun, but no bets were decided by the close of Thursday’s American Century Championship pro-am.
Discussions likely happened throughout the night leading up to Friday’s opening round of the tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
“I’ve got scouting reports out on him,” Steph said Thursday afternoon during a press conference. “We might have to do some hard negotiating tonight at the house to see what the bet will be because his game is a lot better than it was. My work’s cut out for me.”
“I am playing better than I did last year,” said Dell, a 16-year NBA veteran who has two sons playing in the association. “So, we’ll see what happens.”
The bet is a topic that comes up frequently within the Currys personal circle.
“Every time our little group gets together throughout the course of the year, that topic comes up whether it’s trips or games or playoffs,” Steph said. “So that tells you how much we look forward to this event. It’s always on our minds.”
The younger Curry is perhaps the biggest draw of the tournament.
During his round on Friday, a massive gallery followed the two-time NBA MVP and three-time world champion around the course, despite overcast conditions and the threat of rain and thunderstorms.
It’s a far cry from the fans who followed him around following his rookie season in 2010.
“It’s crazy to think about the transformation from 2010 to now,” Steph said. “We’re obviously close to Dub Nation and a lot of fans make the trip up here to beautiful Lake Tahoe and come out to the course and watch us play. It’s Thursday, and the real rounds didn’t really start. But the energy out there and the amount of people following, trekking through the course, cheering the good shots and booing bad shots, all that type of stuff, it’s fun.”
All the fanfare doesn’t bother the 30-year-old. He’s accustomed to entering hostile environments in front of 20,000 people at least 41 times during the regular season and more during the playoffs, where the noise gets even louder. He says he actually thrives in those situations.
He scored his highest point total last year in the final round on Sunday, bettering the point total of three-time defending champion Mark Mulder, all while playing with Tony Romo and Justin Timberlake in what was easily the most popular threesome of the tournament.
And on Thursday, while Curry was hitting a bunker shot on hole No. 17, a fan yelled “brick three or something like that,” Steph said. Curry dropped his wedge, asked his caddie for another ball and threw it back into the sand and asked the guy to come out of the stands and try his luck.
The fan came out of the stands and promptly airmailed the bunker shot about 80 yards into the grandstand behind the green.
“So it’s not as easy as it looks out there, even for the amateurs like me,” Steph said. “I actually commend him for trying because some guys would have backed down. But he actually came out there in flip-flops and tried it.
“But that’s where my NBA experience benefits me in this type of environment. I actually don’t mind the noise. It’s loud. It’s crazy. Playing on the road, people are booing you, the whole deal. Obviously golf, it’s a slower pace and you’ve got to be able to deal with your nerves and your adrenaline standing over the ball. But the noise and the electric atmosphere don’t really bother me, I actually kind of embrace it.”
The younger Curry is a top 10 favorite in the 92-player field to win the tournament with odds at 15-to-1 set by Caesars Entertainment. He has the same odds as NFL quarterback Case Keenum, former MLB pitcher Derek Lowe and NHL Hall of Famers Jeremy Roenick and Mike Modano. Dell Curry is 75-to-1 to win the tournament, about mid-pack.
Before Steph came to the South Shore this week, he took about 10 days off to be mentally fresh entering the ACC.
“I have high expectations, but didn’t want to be burned out,” Steph said, “Because that’s part of the game of golf that is hard to simulate when you’re playing casual rounds. Tournament golf is 10 times harder.”
Steph also addressed the subtraction of University of Nevada graduate JaVale McGee and the addition of another local star player signed by the Warriors: DeMarcus Cousins. He said McGee made the right choice for himself and that Cousins, when he’s ready to play after recovering from a torn Achillles tendon, will provide the Warriors a fresh, mental challenge and make teams around the league continue to try and figure out ways to compete with the juggernaut.
He also addressed his brother playing for the Portland Trailblazers and, of course, the Los Angeles Lakers signing of LeBron James.
“Every year [is] different,” Steph said. “And you can already see the writing on the wall, how this year is going to be a different journey for us and the challenges that we’re going to face with our new roster and guys are going to implement into our team and the reshaping of the league landscape, LeBron in LA, OKC doubling down on their team and obviously the challenge Houston brings. We have to be able to really adjust and learn and evolve and keep our hunger for winning the championship, because, like I said, it’s a great feeling.”