Houston, you have a problem

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HOUSTON, TX - MAY 25: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors receives medical attention after falling over Trevor Ariza #1 of the Houston Rockets on his way to an injury in the second quarter during Game Four of the Western Conference Finals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 25, 2015 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Houston’s lack of empathy toward Steph Curry in game four is as revealing as it was unsettling in the moment.

By Andrew Pridgen

Houston: I get why you were less than obsequious one game after Steph Curry came to your house and turned the Toyota Center out like Laura San Giacomo. After Curry transformed the frenzied bitchin’ Iroc-looking red-and-gray-striped audience into somnolent Jonestown victims. After Curry in 30 minutes dropped 40 points on 19 shots and refused to turn the ball over. After Curry boxed out D-12 making him look like that one kid who should be good at sports but would rather play WoW at recess.

…After Curry actually gave you some highlights to look at on that oversized Costco Vizio hanging like a giant 5,000 dpi guillotine over mid-court.

For 48 minutes Saturday, your stadium—which is soon to be commandeered by the Red Cross as temporary respite for the masses from the sauna-like air blasts, biblical-scale flooding and VW-sized mosquitos—was Curry’s revival tent.

It’s never fun to feel like your squad is the no-team-name-on-jersey opposition in an Under Armour spot or the faceless blurs in the sun-bleached backdrop of an ad for the new Achileva, Pfizer’s one-a-day tablet for broken ankles—but your Game 4 behavior was deplorable.

It’s not that you refused to acknowledge the league’s MVP’s improbable third-quarter return from the locker room where he had to be reanimated like a dead cat in a Stephen King novel.

It’s not that you greeted his emergence in the tunnel with an obligatory smattering of boos.

It’s not that you didn’t applaud when he shakily removed his warm-up and strode back on the court after what could’ve been a catastrophic neck/spine/head injury one quarter earlier.

It’s not that you chanted a mocking “MVP” chorus when he shot his first air ball in public since the Clinton administration in the wake of his injury and subsequent return to the floor.

I get why you didn’t want to see him back in the game. It’s the same reaction Julia Roberts had when she had that creepy mustache on and saw her husband creeping around her mother’s care facility in Sleeping with the Enemy: Shock and horror and a little bit of well-played-sir moistness.

No, it wasn’t the post-injury resurrection or reaction; it’s how you handled the injury itself.

Curry took a heart-stopping spill from mid-flight that not only put an ostensible end to his night, but a millimeter to the left or right, it could’ve been a season if not career-ending event. Spine and head injuries are nothing to sneer or snivel at whether the victim is wearing your home colors or not.

If Houstonians know anything they know the heartbreak of when things tragically fall from orbit and flame out of the sky.

To recap: with 5:52 left in the second quarter Monday, the MVP went for a block of Houston’s Trevor Ariza’s shot underneath the basket and when Ariza ducked, Curry’s momentum carried him up and over like a pebble from a human slingshot. As Curry went BASE jumping sans chute off Ariza’s back, he cartwheeled and spun in oblivion long enough for the Houston faithful to wonder just how he’s going to land the McTwist without a helmet and wrist guards; whether they were going to have to pay the sitter an extra hour because of how long it takes to backboard a star guard; to decide there was enough time to grab a pretzel and make it back to the seat in time for impact.

Eventually, Curry collided with the earth, rolled over and stayed face down on the court for several minutes. Reports indicate at one point a stretcher had been called, but Curry was able to get to his feet and walk off the court.

He did the Nestea Plunge off a 6’8” dude onto the hardwood and GOT UP AND WALKED IT OFF.

And the capacity crowd at Toyota Center…did nothing.

Silent.

Deafening silence.

What?

What the fuck Houston?

It was quiet to the point I kept turning the TV up, then switching channels to make sure the white noise wasn’t a hiccup in the feed. Maybe all 19k of you simultaneously took the break in the action to go fill up your H2s with premium (I’m assuming the majority of you still drive Hummers) or check and make sure the storm shelter was stocked with Vlasics, Trojans and Pampers. Whatever it was, it was dead quiet.

And a little something died in me that moment.

Sportsmanship. Comradery. Good will towards men. An outstretched hand to pick up the guy next to you, dust him off, look him in the dreamy hazel eyes and say, “You OK dude?”

Um, polite applause.

That didn’t happen.

And then there was your home team’s bench at that moment. They were all standing around like the token single guy at a one-year-old’s birthday party. Not quite knowing what to do or who to talk to or why he’s even there.

Look, I’m not a big fan of the prayer circle in the middle of the arena of play during an injury stoppage. The tepid hand holding the forced pensive gaze—most of that is for show. But there are moments in sport that transcend the silliness of the game, moments when it is actually life or death.

It’s tough to say what would’ve happened at Oracle, say if Dwight Howard stepped in a Meadowlark Lemon-issue bucket of confetti and had (another) Dwight Howard-type injury that would prompt most of us to take an Aleve and keep sawing down that branch, but sidelines him for a few months to go hole up in the Chateau Marmont, play video games and subsist on room service, gummy bears and Lindsay Lohan.

For as much as Howard’s contributions have affected the Warriors including stiffing them for LA, waiting under the rim for a selfie with Curry instead of rebounding and throwing the occasional elbow to make his presence known—in the face of actual incident, I believe concern for his health, safety and well-being would override whatever it is that’s happening on court.

I believe most fans this side of Space City know this.

Basketball is a game played by men whose oversized egos are barely contained by their freakishly morphed bodies. Curry is diminutive amongst these mutants. It’s what kept him from playing for a basketball powerhouse in college. It’s what dropped him down to pick seven after dominating that spring’s NCAA tournament. It’s what took him six seasons to get noticed by nearly every pundit living outside the nickel dime as he and his Warriors contemporaries transformed a moribund franchise into the league’s current West Coast team of record.

He’s relatable. He’s energetic. And he’s a little like you and me, albeit with a gunslinger’s release and the cutest daughter known to man.

Houston’s the opposition and I get that they were fighting for their (playoff) lives at the time of incident. But the immediate reaction to Curry’s fall was telling. It was a character moment. And Houston, cumulatively, showed they had none.

Hopefully, after Wednesday, it’s a problem they’ll have an entire offseason to address.

Photo: Getty Images

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