HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Faith and passion are things Golden State Warriors fans have always possessed in surplus. And they’ll be tested in both categories this season as they hold their collective breath when training camp begins and they finally see exactly what their team will look like in the flesh.
There is so much to like on paper, with offensive firepower in nearly every direction.
Steph Curry is reportedly healthy and healed, ready to get back on the court and resume his rise. Youngsters like Klay Thompson and rookie Harrison Barnes have extremely high ceilings. David Lee and his non-stop motor is always ready to go. And veteran role players like Jarrett Jack, Richard Jefferson, Carl Landry, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush will provide the quality depth coach Mark Jackson needs to deliver on the promise for the future the franchise is selling.
That leaves one glaring question mark for the Warriors, one that only Andrew Bogut‘s body can answer.
If he’s ready this season, whenever he returns to action from the ankle injury that has sidelined him for the past eight months, the Warriors could be ready to take the next step. If not, well … Warriors fans know the refrain better than most.
Bogut knows that this is a pivotal year in his career, too. A fresh start after an up and down seven-season stretch in Milwaukee. When healthy, he was among the best big men in the league and a true defensive anchor for a playoff-caliber team. But Bogut has played in all 82 games just once in his career, way back in his rookie season.
The potential for something big, however, remains. And as Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News points out, the Bay Area is hungry for a Warriors star to celebrate. We’re going to find out soon if Bogut is indeed that star:
Q: Do you have a sense about how this team is going to play?
–BOGUT: It’s hard right now. But obviously we’re going to be a scoring team. We have some flat-out scorers on our team–Steph and Klay and Harrison Barnes is a scorer, too. He can be very aggressive. David Lee and myself. The list goes on. Richard Jefferson as well.
I think our focus isn’t going to be offense so much in training camp. That’s what we’re focused on in these drills we’re doing in the preseason, there’s a lot of defensive focus.
That’s been a weakness here not just last season but for a number of years–the defense wasn’t a priority. So we’re trying to change that.
We know you’re not going to win many games and even if you do, you’re not going to win many playoff series scoring 110 points a game. That’s just not going to happen.
The math and the numbers and the stats say if you can grind down teams, keep them under 100, generally you’ve got a good chance to win.
-Q: How much of that is on you?
–BOGUT: A lot of it, yeah. Definitely a lot of it. I can be the vocal point in the paint, can see the whole floor and talk and communicate, block shots, take charges.
But the other thing we struggled with last year, when we did get stops, we didn’t get the rebound. I think we were the second-worst defensive rebounding team in the league. So it doesn’t make sense to work hard, get the stop and then Dwight Howard gets a tip-in. It kind of demoralizes the whole feel.
So that’s on me and David Lee to make sure we get those defensive rebounds.
-Q: You bring up Howard. What’d you think when Dwight and [Steve] Nash end up in LA?
-BOGUT: (Shakes his head.) The rich get richer. That’s generally how it is in the NBA. Grown accustomed to it the last five-six years. The rich get richer and the poor have to kind of scrounge and find other role players to fill it in. That’s kind of the way it is.
They’re obviously going to come out all guns a-blazin’. Obviously Dwight’s not going to be quite ready (at the start of the season), but just having Nash and Kobe together, and throwing Pau in there, that’s a pretty potent roster.
-Q: How have you done against Dwight in the past?
-BOGUT: Up and down. I’ve had some games where I got in foul trouble, like everybody. And I’ve had some games where I’ve guarded him pretty well.
The focus with Dwight is not to give him any cheap baskets and dunks, because he’s just so strong. Once he gets the ball within 3 feet of the rim, he’s putting you in the basket.
So I try to focus on making him use his touch a little bit more. And if he’s having a good game and making his hook shots, you’re in some trouble.
-Q: You feel a challenge when you see Dwight in your division?
-BOGUT: We’ve got work to do, yeah. I mean, the Lakers wherever they play there tends to be a lot of Laker fans. Same thing here. We know there’s going to be a lot of hype on that bandwagon. That’s going to be a tough team to beat, a state rival.
But we can’t run and hide from that. Hopefully we can steal a coupled games from them and see how we go. But obviously them and Miami are the two championship favorites.
Bogut is right about one thing: there is much work to be done by these Warriors. They have to restore the faith of their fans who have grown weary of the unfulfilled hype and validate their passion.
They’ll have their own history and a rugged Western Conference playoff field working against them.
But the pieces to change culture, perception and station in the standings of this franchise certainly seem to be in place. If Bogut’s body holds up … well, Warriors fans, you know the routine …