HANG TIME WEST – The next step is to prove they can handle the playoff intensity, and there is reason to wonder. The Warriors did not handle the raised expectations of the second half of 2012-13 well, their playoff opponent beginning Saturday afternoon is postseason tested, and Golden State must prove it can stand up to the moment while playing at altitude in a building where the Nuggets lost all of three times in 41 games.
But what a time to face the doubt. The perfect time, actually. The Warriors having something to prove in the first round that opens at inhospitable Pepsi Center will come as merely the latest installment of a season of responding to skepticism.
The general manager.
Well, some of the ankles. The Andrew Bogut issue remains after he missed 2 ½ games late with a sprain, the same left ankle he fractured last season and eventually required the dreaded microfracture surgery. Although the starting center returned Wednesday at Portland, the condition of the ankle will be a storyline at least early in the series.
Stephen Curry, on the other hand: proven. A history of ankle troubles, all of 26 games last season amid serious doubts about his dependability, and now 78 games, on the verge of becoming an All-Star, arguably the best shooter in the league.
Coach Mark Jackson: proven. It was well-deserved skepticism because Jackson had never been an assistant or head coach. His rookie season, 2011-12, was an unfair read, coming in a lockout campaign with an abbreviated camp and a truncated 66-game schedule that allowed little practice time and a major trade in the middle. But one year later, a roster relying heavily on rookies and hit by injury has a much-improved defense and a much-improved outlook.
General manager Bob Myers: proven. His lack of experience in the front office, after a career as a successful agent, made the quick promotion by owner Joe Lacob a risky move. But last summer, in his first offseason running basketball ops, Myers delivered with a veteran’s consistency. Draft Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green. Trade for Jarrett Jack. Sign Carl Landry. Nonstop direct hits.
Lacob: proven. Getting booed at home last season the night the Warriors retired the jersey of Chris Mullin was always an undeserved low blow. But Lacob has now earned a special level of credibility by delivering on the initial promise to inject a new atmosphere around the organization and, most importantly, a return to the postseason after years of letdown. He picked Jackson. He picked Myers. He spent big. Get that man to Mullin jersey ceremony now.
The season has answered so many Golden State questions. Bogut’s health is the lingering to-be-announced outcome, and the playoffs will go a long way toward the read. Productive weeks now can overshadow absent months before. This is his chance, just as all the Warriors have the opportunity to prove something beginning Saturday.