South Lake Tahoe, NV – Two of basketball's brightest young stars hope their sweet strokes on the hardwood translate to the golf course when they tee off at the 24th annual American Century Championship here in beautiful Lake Tahoe.
Stephen Curry and Deron Williams will join some of the country's biggest sports and entertainment stars, including Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Ray Romano and Aaron Rodgers, as well as defending champion Dan Quinn and first- timers like Chipper Jones and Ivan Rodriguez, in this year's field.
One of the best pure shooters in all of basketball, Curry is fresh off rebooting Bay Area basketball and electrifying all of Northern California by leading the Golden State Warriors back into the postseason for the first time since the 2006-07 season and for just the third time in 20 years.
"It feels incredible," Curry said of leading his team to the playoffs. "To fight through so many injuries and prove the playoff predictions wrong, it just speaks to the dedication of our entire organization. We feel like we're moving into a new era of Golden State basketball. We want to be a consistent playoff team, and that starts with this year."
Similarly, Williams -- along with a move to hip Brooklyn -- reenergized a previously moribund Nets brand by "D-will-ing" the club into the postseason for the first time in six years.
"It was an exciting time for everybody in the process," Williams said. "People had been working very hard to move the team (from New Jersey to Brooklyn) and it was important to put a great product on the floor. I just wish we could have gone further but it was a good experience and hopefully we can learn from it and move further (next year)."
Williams, of course. has been a headliner for years, a three-time All-Star and one of the best two or three points guards in the game since arriving in the league as the third overall pick out of Illinois by the Utah Jazz in 2005.
Curry, on the other hand, had a bit of a coming out party in 2012-13, finally putting persistent ankle problems behind him en route to setting a new NBA single-season 3-point record by making 272 treys, eclipsing the previous mark set by noted sharpshooter Ray Allen, who will also be a participant at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
"Going into the season, and even the last couple games, it definitely wasn't my main goal to break the record," Curry said. "Honestly, I just wanted to help my team win games and I do that by shooting the ball. But I do feel so blessed that it happened. Even having my name in the same sentence as Ray Allen and some of those guys is an honor."
The two NBA All-Stars have already conquered team sports and will now turn their attention to a new challenge, one in which they will be left to their own devices at America's premier celebrity golf tournament.
"I play a team sport for a reason," Williams joked. "There so much more pressure in golf. In basketball, when you don't have it or you're not feeling it you can pass the ball to your teammate. In golf, it's all on you but I enjoy it."
Each will be making a return appearance at the American Century Championship and while you shouldn't expect either to push the perennial favorites like Quinn, a former NHL-er who caddies part-time for Ernie Els and is a five- time champion with an impressive 17 top-10 finishes at this event, it won't be for a lack of trying.
You can see the competitor come out in both Curry and Williams whenever they are tussling with others and the same will be true in Lake Tahoe, even if the pressure of making a big putt on television may seem far more ominous than sticking a game-winner in front of thousands of screaming fans.
"I play to a 2 (handicap)," stated the assured Curry. "I do take the game seriously in the summers when I get to play. My dad (ex-NBA player Dell Curry) and brother both play but I feel like I can take them any day of the week."
Williams is a little less confident in his golf skills but relishes each and every opportunity he gets on the links.
"I have been playing for five years now and it's just so much fun and so challenging," the Dallas native said. " I had to miss last year's tournament for the Olympics but it's exciting to be back."
Since some of the mechanics of a jump shot in basketball can translate very well to the golf course, some expect ballers -- especially great marksman like Curry -- to take to golf rather quickly.
"On a scale from 1-10, I'm a 10 at the free throw line and a 10 on the tee box but the results might not be as great," Curry quipped. "The same sense of focus you see when I shoot from the top of the key, I apply that to my golf game as well. We will see if that translates into success in both."
Williams doesn't necessarily agree but sees similarities in both games.
"It's a lot like being on the free throw line for a game-winning free throw," D-Will countered when talking about staring down the fairway. "All eyes are on you ... It's really that first tee when they announce your name but then you settle down from there."
Whether Curry or Williams can make noise at the American Century Championship remains to be seen but results aside, Edgewood figures to serve as a bit of a respite for the two superstars, something to look forward to after the hard grind of another NBA campaign.
"Lake Tahoe and the atmosphere here is hard to compare to any other location," Curry said. "I don't know what more you could want in one place -- mountains, a lake, beaches. It's the perfect setting for something like a golf tournament because it's so peaceful and scenic."