The bonding started with an invitation.
It came from Monta Ellis, requesting Stephen Curry's attendance. The occasion: Ellis' wedding last summer.
"To be honest," Curry said, "the way things had gone to that point, I assumed Juanika (Ellis' future wife) was the one inviting me."
Ellis said the wedding invitation was a gesture of goodwill to a teammate he acknowledges having been harsh with.
It turned out to be the kindling of a friendship. No, they aren't exactly Sam and Frodo. But the tension between them has been replaced by camaraderie. The skepticism regarding their ability to play together in the same backcourt has been supplanted by mutual admiration. The differences between them have been superseded by a common understanding.
"The world wants us to hate each other," Ellis said. "So it just brings us closer. We know we can help each other. He can help me. I can help him. At the end of the day, we are the two key players on this team. And we can carry a basketball team. So it does start with us."
On Thursday, the Warriors' starting guards took that bond public. They partnered with Feed the Children to provide food and personal care products to 800 local families. The idea was their own and the cost came completely out of their own pockets.
Ellis and Curry each paid about $5,000 for a semi-tractor trailer, each equipped with 400 boxes of food and essentials. Feed the Children, an international hunger relief organization, delivered the food to preselected families. Ellis and Curry appeared in East Oakland to help pass out the food and meet the people. Together.
Not that long ago, these two scarcely could be seen together in a conversation.
At the start of last season's training camp, known as Media Day, Ellis made headlines by declaring he and Curry, the Warriors' first-round draft pick three months earlier, could not succeed as a backcourt tandem.
There were no more public declarations, but the absence of a relationship between the two was obvious. Ellis said recently that Curry was the unfortunate victim of his ire for the organization and management's decisions.
"From the outside looking in, it was never a hateful relationship," said Ronny Turiaf, who played with the Warriors last season before being traded to New York Knicks in July. "It was more of an ongoing test of approval. It wasn't toward Steph, in a sense, and (Ellis) evolved as a person tremendously, and understood that his openness would let people in. He wants to win. So Steph had to earn respect. And he did."
Curry said he was determined to gain Ellis' approval. He said he understood going in that he was a rookie with limited rights and wanted to win over the veterans. The situation with Ellis, Curry said, just showed him that he had to work harder.
Ellis was watching. The skinny, baby-faced rookie from Davidson College put up big numbers, went hard every practice, accepted responsibility for his mistakes, invited instruction.
Before long, Ellis said he started to see the potential for himself and Curry to become what he and Baron Davis once were: a dominant backcourt. Ellis said he and Curry are already the best backcourt in the league. Ellis predicted by the end of the year that he and Curry will be better than he was with Davis if they continue to learn each other's game.
"He's pretty much the whole package," Ellis said of Curry. "Great basketball player. Wonderful guy off the court. Never backs down from an opponent. Works hard every day.
"I never had to question his game. He goes out every night and gives it his all. When you have bad games, it shows a lot when you come back the next game and make up for that game. He goes home and he studies the game, and he comes back and corrects it the next game."
Their bond reached a new level shortly after last season ended. It was another delivery from Ellis to Curry, but this time it was a Blackberry message. Ellis said a long discussion with his wife opened his eyes, and he apologized to Curry for his training camp comments and the cold shoulder he'd given him.
To be sure, they don't hang out together away from the court. They don't have much in common. But they talk more than they ever have. On the court, they encourage and correct.
"He's a captain on our team. He's been here the longest," Curry said. "Naturally, it means a lot for that guy to make you feel welcome and not have to walk on eggshells every time you're around him, wondering how he looks at you. That doesn't affect how I play, and I don't think it's necessary to have an extreme bond off the court to have success on the court. But you've got to have a mutual respect for each other and trust. That's a big part of playing well together."
The bonding that has taken place between Ellis and Curry continued Thursday through community service. In a church parking lot, with Curry wearing the T-shirt of Ellis' recently formed ME8 Foundation, they served as a two-man assembly line for at least an hour. Curry handed each family a box of toiletries. Ellis gave them a box of personal care items.
They greeted families, posed for photos, signed autographs and handed out food. They shared laughs with each other.
As friendships go, theirs won't inspire a feature film. But considering how they started, that they have a bond at all is something.
Warriors at Portland, 7 p.m., CSNBA