Golden State Warriors/YouTube
John Mac / Flickr | Noah Salzman / Wikimedia | Inset: Golden State Warriors / YouTube

The way WNBA veterans have been competing against the league’s No.1 overall pick, Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark, has been at the top of sports debate since her rookie season started last month. The hot topic has trickled into other sports leagues, including the NBA, who’ve been watching Clark’s stardom form as a professional after her stellar college career. MSNBC asked Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr if he understands what Clark is going through, especially having been teammates with Michael Jordan and seeing how teams would try to get him off his game with trash talk, hard fouls and more.

However, Kerr countered with a player he still coaches when comparing an NBA superstar to Clark. Kerr said, “I think it’s a rite of passage for young players, whether it’s the WNBA or the NBA. The other players are going to test you. Caitlin reminds me a lot of Steph Curry.” Why exactly did Kerr compare what Clark’s going through to Curry? Well, he was a first-round draft pick, though he didn’t go first overall in 2009. However, Curry was a sensation coming out of Davidson, where he set the NCAA record for the most-made three-pointers in a single Division I season with 162 in the 2007-08 season. Clark broke that record this past year.  When he got to the NBA, though, things were difficult for Curry despite being someone the Warriors needed to be great on the court.

Kerr said, “In Steph’s first couple of years, he was not a superstar. He was not who he is now. He had to get stronger. He had to understand people were coming after him. That’s what’s happening with Caitlin right now.” Kerr said he believes the tough defense, trash talk and more that Clark has been consumed with to start her WNBA career is “all in the name of competition.” He explained, “She’s handling herself beautifully. She’s an amazing player, but like any player that comes into the WNBA or the NBA, it takes time. They have to get stronger and more used to the contact, the physicality, the athleticism. She’ll be fine, and I think everything going through right now is all a part of being a pro.”

In Curry’s rookie season, he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting after averaging 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. He started all but three of his 80 contests while averaging 36.2 minutes per game. These numbers are definitely nothing to scoff at, especially considering he followed it up with 18.6 points per game in year two, though he played just 26 games in his third year. It wasn’t until the 2012-13 season when he broke out with 22.9 points per game and 42.4% shooting from three-point land. MVPs and NBA championships would follow.

Clark is averaging 16.3 points per game with 4.9 rebounds and 6.0 assists, though she’s not shooting how she would like at just 37.3 percent from the field and 33.0% from beyond the arc. As Kerr said, though, it takes time, no matter who you are.

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