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Scott Howard-Cooper

Klay Thompson is healthy, but many of his teammates are still iffy for season's start.
Klay Thompson is healthy, but many of his teammates are still iffy for season's start.

Injuries, newbies threaten Warriors' hopes for a fast start


Posted Oct 19, 2012 12:12 PM

Andrew Bogut appeared to be in uniform Wednesday night, covered in the Warriors' royal-blue warmups as he watched the exhibition in Sacramento from the bench, perhaps signaling a return to action.

Such a kidder.

The truth was that Bogut did not pack the dress clothes required by the league to ride the bench, so he wrapped himself in game gear while actually wearing dressed-down civilian clothes underneath. He still has no target date for his Golden State debut, seven months after being acquired from Milwaukee with an ankle injury. We still have no word whether he will make opening night, the Oct. 31 visit to Phoenix that once upon a time, a few weeks ago, was talked of as a foregone conclusion.

The possibility that Bogut could miss the entire preseason, and maybe then some, is growing. All attention turns to a scheduled weekend visit with his doctor and the latest update, "all attention" not merely limited to the Bay Area. This is a checkup that belongs to the entire Western Conference, especially the group of teams that start the season tracking to the bottom half of the bracket and knowing a couple games in the standings could be the difference between seventh place in late April or vacation.

The Warriors and Timberwolves are the greatest of the uncertainties, Minnesota because of the Kevin Love hand injury on top of the Ricky Rubio knee injury on top of several key roster changes and Golden State because of everything imaginable. A reliance on rookies and new players. A heavy reliance on players coming off serious injury. So ... everything: A reliance on new players coming off serious injury.

Bogut's recovery from the fractured left ankle he suffered Jan. 25 at Houston goes beyond the minutiae of daily health progress reports. The Warriors see a lot of quality centers early, against the Suns (Marcin Gortat), Grizzlies (Marc Gasol), Kings (DeMarcus Cousins) and Lakers (Dwight Howard, presuming his comeback schedule remains on track), along with the Clippers and the possible re-emergence of defensive standout DeAndre Jordan. All that before the regular season has reached the end of its first full week.

Bogut missing a game or two in there and playing little in others, or playing without moving well, is an issue, no matter how impressive rookie Festus Ezeli has been during exhibition play. But it's especially an issue because Stephen Curry is giving his problematic left ankle a regular-season test drive for the first time in 7 ½ months. Rookies Harrison Barnes and Ezeli are second-string at worse and possibly starting. Newcomer veterans Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry have key reserve roles.

So if all those new players are hurt or not ready, the Warriors could face something they badly want to avoid: a slow start.

"We don't think like that," Curry said. "We understand we have a long way to go to be on that upper tier of teams that are in the playoff run every year. But we understand that we put a lot of work in and they gave us a roster that we're deeper than last year and we can definitely make some noise this season. We're optimistic, but we know we're not going to start the season off 10-0 and everything's going to peaches and cream. We're going to hit some low points. But hopefully from the start, we'll be playing well and feeling good about ourselves and able to build on it."

Curry's comeback is going well, building from 12 minutes in the exhibition opener to 23, 24 and 23 the next three with no ankle problems reported. And depth is one of the new Warriors positives. But on the Bogut topic, coach Mark Jackson is using phrases like "we're still a ways away" and "I hope it's realistic" that Bogut will get a preseason run with teammates to establish some cohesion. No one can say for sure either way. The chance of a choppy opening looms.

"That's not going to be the way we look at things," Jackson said. "We know we're young. But we know we have a starting point guard (Curry), a star player who hasn't played a lot in the last year. We're hoping for Andrew Bogut to be healthy. At the same time, we're very confident with where we are. We don't anticipate a slow start at all."

Not anticipating it is one thing. Not having it is another.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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