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‘I’m always rooting for those guys to do well’: Seth Curry still feels appreciation for Sixers

Curry was a complementary player in the blockbuster Ben Simmons-James Harden trade, which sent the sharpshooting guard from one strange situation in Philly to an even stranger one in Brooklyn.

Sixers Paul Reed guards Nets guard Seth Curry during the 3rd quarter at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Tuesday,  November 22, 2022.
Sixers Paul Reed guards Nets guard Seth Curry during the 3rd quarter at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Tuesday, November 22, 2022.Read moreSteven M. Falk / Staff Photographer

A few minutes after Ben Simmons took the Wells Fargo Center floor for his pregame warmup, 76ers teammate-turned-Nets teammate Seth Curry also emerged from the visitors’ locker room.

Curry chatted with Sixers assistant coach Sam Cassell while dribbling near midcourt, before player development coach (and brother-in-law) Spencer Rivers joined and reserve forward Georges Niang swung by to slap Curry’s hand. A smattering of cheers then met Curry when he checked into the game for the first time, before he totaled 14 points, two rebounds, and two assists in 24 minutes off the bench.

It was a far warmer reception than the one received Tuesday night by Simmons, who was booed every time he touched the ball and jeered whenever he stepped to the free-throw line during the Nets’ 115-106 loss to the severely shorthanded Sixers. Curry was a complementary player in the blockbuster Simmons-James Harden trade, which sent the sharpshooting veteran guard from one strange situation in Philly to an even stranger one in Brooklyn.

» READ MORE: A timeline of Ben Simmons’ rift with the Sixers

Yet Curry still holds an appreciation for his former city and team, which is coached by father-in-law Doc Rivers and where he scored a career-best 13.6 points per game over parts of two seasons.

“I still have good relationships with all the guys here,” Curry told reporters following the Nets’ shootaround Tuesday morning. “Had some good times, some good battles together. I’m always rooting for those guys to do well.”

Curry was the Nets’ top bench performer Tuesday during a forgettable outing for his team. He viewed it as a positive step in his personal progress as he works to regain rhythm following arthroscopic ankle surgery that limited him during the summer and early season.

He acknowledged he felt an extra “edge” in his first visit to Philly as a Net last March, when the trade was still fresh. Back then, he dropped 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting (4-of-8 from three-point range) and added five steals in a Brooklyn rout while an injured Simmons gleefully watched from the bench.

Curry, though, said there have been moments during the last two seasons when he wished he could be on a “regular team that just has to focus on playing basketball and winning basketball games.” After his experience on the Sixers while navigating Simmons’ messy holdout following a trade demand before the 2021-22 season, Curry joined Simmons on the Nets. Within the last year, Brooklyn has dealt with superstar Kevin Durant’s trade request, coach Steve Nash’s in-season firing, and All-Star Kyrie Irving’s inconsistent availability because of his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and his recent suspension for sharing a link on social media to a movie with anti-Semitic themes.

“There’s definitely been some hard aspects of it, if I’m being honest,” Curry told The Inquirer after Tuesday’s game. “But I’m just trying to be a professional about it and do my job on a daily basis.”

Curry’s mellow demeanor has been an asset in such circumstances. So has his diligence in keeping with a routine, he said, from his game-day shooting to how he lifts weights and studies film.

That helped Curry fit in with the Nets immediately following the trade, when in 19 regular-season games he averaged 14.9 points on 49.3% shooting from the floor, including a blistering 46.8% on 6.5 long-range attempts per game. Yet those habits were put on hold following his surgery, when he could not play pickup games during the summer.

Curry missed eight of the Nets’ first nine games and said he is “still fighting some things, just consistency-wise.” He is averaging 9.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists on 41.1% shooting, including 34.1% from three-point range. New Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said he is still tinkering with the lineups in which Curry works best while coming off the bench.

“I’ve shown flashes, but I just haven’t been myself for long stretches like I’m used to,” Curry said. “It’s about getting out there, getting reps, and trying to produce.”

Added Vaughn: “[I] totally believe he’s going to make a ton of shots for us.”

That prediction proved correct early Tuesday, when Curry made three of his first five attempts. He swiped a steal and then got loose for a second-quarter deep shot that cut the Sixers’ lead to 50-48, then hit the game-tying jumper on the following possession. With about five minutes to play in the third frame, Curry received a pass from Simmons and sank a three-pointer that got the Nets within 75-72. Later, Curry found Irving for a fourth-quarter long ball, then hit a pull-up jumper that trimmed the Sixers’ advantage to 96-89 with less than eight minutes remaining.

But Curry went 2-of-7 from the floor in the second half — including an open miss from beyond the arc with the Nets trailing by four points with two minutes to play in the third quarter — to perhaps illustrate that he is still regaining strength in his legs.

» READ MORE: Ben Simmons explains why he hasn’t spoken to Joel Embiid since leaving Sixers: ‘You’re not cool with everybody’

Curry said he still periodically keeps in touch with his former Sixers teammates, including when All-NBA center Joel Embiid FaceTimes him to talk trash (aka “Joel stuff”). His wife (and Rivers’ daughter), Callie, along with their two children, Carter and Cash, visited the coach’s home Tuesday afternoon, where Rivers jokingly encouraged the youngsters to wear their Sixers gear to that night’s game.

And before leaving the court, Curry quickly popped over to the Sixers’ bench to exchange more pleasantries.

“We didn’t get the win,” Curry said. “But it was still a good trip.”