Two hours before opening tip, Seth Curry is the lone Blue Devil on the Cameron court, working on his shot.
When the rest of the team takes the court in an hour to go through pregame warmups, Curry will be nowhere in sight. He'll likely be in the training room, going through whatever maintenance he needs to get his body ready for the rigors of a 40 minute game—treatment, tape, magic beans.
Alone, save for a manager feeding him the ball, this is the way Curry gets most of his practice in these days. The manager rebounds a Curry miss, but, rather than firing the ball back to him, the way he normally would, the manager holds the ball at his side.
Curry shuffles his feet awkwardly after the ball rims out. He takes a step back and looks around, a grimace of pain on his face. He tugs at his shorts, takes a deep breath, and assures himself that nothing has gotten worse. The level of pain in his body is more or less the same as always.
Then Curry pulls himself up straight, takes a look over his shoulder, deep into the rafters of Cameron, and swings his head back around to locate the pass, already on his way.
This shot is a little long, and the entire process starts over. Curry appears to crumple in pain, and the manager waits for him to reboot before firing a pass while Curry is looking elsewhere, training himself to be ready to go when the ball arrives, knowing the window of opportunity will be short.
This one goes in, and Curry is on the run, smoothly moving to the next spot outside the arc. The ball is on the way, and Curry smoothly works his way around to the opposite corner, draining one shot from each spot and going around the world in the time it took him to recover from his initial miss.
Then he takes a big step back and does the same thing from NBA range, running the circuit in the opposite direction. The money ball rims out, and all the pain crashes home again.
This is Seth Curry's basketball life. He's preparing for the second of back-to-back games. At the Battle for Atlantis, Duke played three games in three days. The early-season schedule appears to be custom-made to test the limits of Curry's tolerance.
Curry opened the season nursing an unspecified leg injury. Over time, it's been pinpointed (so to speak) to "something wrong with the shin." Based on where the trainers strap the ice when he comes out of the game, the right leg appears to be the one giving him trouble.
"This is more or less the way it's going to be all year," Curry says of the pain. Trainers are confident he can't make it worse, so he resigns himself to enduring it.
Now Curry can even grit his teeth to take the pain. He lost his famous mouth guard—the one that sticks halfway out of his mouth when he gets on a roll, like a plastic victory cigar—after the Temple game. "They got me a new one, but I forgot it," he laughs after one game, but the next night, he's still without it.
He has enough protective equipment without it. His legs are encased in a protective shell of spandex and padding during games.
With very little practice time, Curry has been battling rust as well as pain. He missed three free throws in the first minute of the Elon game, and he's had dry stretches where the long-distance shots aren't falling. But, like an old car on a cold morning, once the engine finally turns over, he's ready to roll, and when he can't hit from outside, he's been able to do damage in the paint.
Against Kentucky, Curry dribbled into traffic, using a series of moves that were described on Twitter as "old man at the Y", and scoring tough baskets on the inside. Against Temple, he strafed the Owls from the outside.
"Curry was great today," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "He stepped up and did what he had to do. When we were just sniffing to get back in it, he hit some tough shots."
What he had to do: Whatever it takes to get points and seal the win, Curry is willing to do. And sometimes that includes grinding through the pain just to get on the floor.
It only hurts when they don't go in.