For the first time in years, there wasn’t a cloud of drama hovering in the room as Warriors training camp opened.
In 2007, Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson were smarting over the breakup of the “We Believe” Warriors on media day. In 2008, it was guard Monta Ellis and the moped incident. In 2009, Jackson used the media day platform to demand a trade while Ellis openly doubted if he and then-rookie point guard Stephen Curry could win together.
In 2010, new ownership fired coach Don Nelson and announced Keith Smart as his replacement. The only thing that thwarted questions about the Ellis-Curry backcourt and the hiring of rookie coach Mark Jackson last year was the lockout.
So Monday, Jackson’s first Warriors media day turned out to be calm and drama-free. But what the Warriors lack in drama they make up for in uncertainty.
On paper, the Warriors appear to be one of the most-improved teams in the league. But up and down the roster, and on the sideline, are plenty of question marks.
When will Andrew Bogut be healthy?
Bogut’s injured left ankle has not been cleared for 5-on-5 action yet so he will be on the sideline starting training camp. But the center said he’s ramped up his conditioning and will be able to do some jumping and layups on the side.
“If I get to the point where it’s the 20th of October,” Bogut said, “and I’m feeling very good and I can try to put myself through a preseason game to test it out, I’ll do so. But if we’re at that point of the month and it’s still a little sore, or there is still some swelling issues, we just have to be smart with it.”
Bogut has stressed his priority is being healthy for the Oct. 31 opener, so he will play it safe in training camp. But all expectations are that he’s making good progress since his April arthroscopic surgery.
Is Stephen Curry ready to lead this team?
When the fourth-year point guard was a rookie, and the losses were piling up, then-coach Nelson decided to look to the future and put the ball in Curry’s hands. Anointed the team leader, Curry responded with a monstrous second half of the season.
Since then — and until he was traded — guard Monta Ellis had been too dominant a presence for Curry to operate as the team’s undisputed leader. Now it’s different.
Both Jackson and general manager Bob Myers were unequivocal in stating that this is Curry’s team.
“That means a lot,” Curry said.
Long deemed the point guard of the future for the Warriors, Curry finally gets the reins to the team. He’s proven to be a much better player when he’s the primary ball-handler/decision-maker. Plus, the weapons he has around him should exploit his strengths and help diminish his weaknesses.
His biggest hurdle will be assuming the role of vocal leader.
“I’ve talked to him a bunch in the offseason about whether off the court he’s naturally a guy that’s going to talk a whole lot in the locker room,” forward David Lee said. “He’s more of a lead-by-example kind of guy. But he’s got to be a vocal point guard that gets us into our stuff and I think he’s ready to do that. Absolutely.”
Who will start at small forward?
Jackson has three options: veteran Richard Jefferson, rookie Harrison Barnes or swingman Brandon Rush.
Unless Barnes has a monstrous camp, the decision is likely between Jefferson and Rush. Jackson said it won’t necessarily be the best player, but the best fit. Since Golden State has four offensive-minded starters, the starting small forward might be the one who’s best on defense.
“Coach wants to see guys who are going to get the stops,” Barnes said. “Guys that dive on the floor for loose balls. Guys that aren’t going to do things that hurt the team or do things that are selfish plays. … We’ll see what happens.”
Rush had a career year playing under Jackson, who clearly is comfortable with him. He’s a good defender on the ball and an above-average shot-blocker for a perimeter player. However, Jefferson has the experience advantage. If he still has the legs to compete on the defensive end, he’d be the most natural fit.
Is there another level to David Lee’s game?
He’s completely healthy. He called Bogut the best center he’s ever played next to in the NBA. He’s coming off one of his best seasons as a pro. What’s more, he’s got a ready veteran in Carl Landry waiting right behind him.
It seems the stage is set for a career year from Lee.
“Just having Bogut alone is going to make David Lee better,” Jackson said. “I’d put him against any power forward in the league.”
Will Andris Biedrins factor in?
Biedrins said he realizes that people have written him off. But he said he’s got something for his critics this season.
“It’s been a long ride the last couple years. I know what people already think about me,” he said. “That doesn’t affect me anymore. Maybe it did before. But now I’m really concentrating on myself, just getting on the court and prove them wrong.”
Jackson expressed a level of disappointment that his veteran center was the only player not working out early at the team’s downtown facility.
Biedrins said he was in Santa Barbara working out, as he’s done in the past. He said it wasn’t a sign of his lack of commitment to the team.
With the uncertainty of Bogut’s ankle, the Warriors could use a motivated Biedrins.
“My commitment level has always been the same,” Biedrins said. “I wasn’t here. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t practicing hard.”