HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – At 8-6 after Saturday’s home win over Minnesota and their fifth in seven games, the Golden State Warriors could be considered the early surprise of the Western Conference.
And they’ve done it without their centerpiece, Andrew Bogut. That might be changing as reports have surfaced that Bogut could be ready to return next Saturday, according to Yahoo.com, meaning he would miss just one more game during the Warriors’ upcoming light week. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Bogut might be ready for practice on Monday.
Since the Warriors made the deal with Milwaukee, shipping out scoring machine and fan favorite Monta Ellis for Bogut in March, he’s played just four games, the first four of this season before yet another injury, this time a left ankle issue, took him out of the lineup.
Golden State is practically salivating to put the skilled 7-footer on a frontline with David Lee and impressive rookie Harrison Barnes.
“That was what we planned in making the trade, that’s what we planned in drafting Harrison Barnes,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said last week after securing an overtime win at Dallas. “That being said, we’ve got a lot of guys that don’t have NBA experience, so it’s going to be a process and we’re going to stick true to the process, continue to grind out, continue to work hard and continue to learn.”
The bearded, 260-pound Bogut, when healthy, can become a transformational figure in the Warriors’ lineup as they continue to shift from a purely offensive squad to one that takes the defensive end just as seriously. Bogut has averaged 12.6 points and 9.3 rebounds in his career, and at least two blocks a game in each of the past three seasons.
Golden State sits fifth in the West and boasts victories over the Clippers, Hawks and Nets.
“It’s huge,” guard Stephen Curry said last week of Bogut’s impending return. “That’s why they thought they needed to trade for him to solidify the paint for us. I think you can see now in his absence with Festus [Ezeli], Carl [Landry], D. Lee, Andris [Biedrens], when those guys are playing hard, they’re tough and they’re physical and they get it done. For us to have a guy that’s known for fitting that mold [Bogut] who’s out right now, you can only think it makes us that much better.”
The Warriors, and the rest of the league, could be about to find out.