About 45 minutes before tip-off at Oracle Arena on Monday night, a stranger walked unannounced into the Warriors’ locker room.
Looked like Andrew Bogut. Sounded like Andrew Bogut. In fact, he was Andrew Bogut.
Uh, you do remember him, right?
After a six-game absence, Bogut returned to action in a 109-95 victory over the Detroit Pistons, one of the surprise teams of the early NBA season. Backup Festus Ezeli filled in so well the last two weeks, few realized that the big Aussie was gone. That’s not a knock on the Bogie man but a pat on the backs of general manager Bob Myers and sidekick Jerry West, who have assembled the most talented and versatile roster around.
“We’re the deepest team in the league,” Klay Thompson told Balls. “We saw it last year, and this year is no different. We’re good for a reason.”
The Champs would be hard-pressed to survive without Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and possibly Thompson for an extended period. But for a day or a week or even a month in the regular season, everyone is expendable, and that’s the beauty of this still-unbeaten team.
As usual, Thompson (24 points) and Curry (22) led the way. But when the homies pulled away early in the fourth quarter, the top guns were on the bench while second-teamers Leandro Barbosa, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston closed an eighth consecutive victory without a loss.
An effective Bogut finished with eight rebounds, nine points and a standing ovation. And he even removed his mask on the way to bench, as if to confirm it really was him.
BARNES TO HORNETS? The latest Harrison Barnes rumor has him headed to the Charlotte Hornets in return for Nicolas Batum in a swap of small forwards. Both can become free agents after the season.
The Hornets have set the playoffs as their immediate goal, but if they fall out of contention before the trade deadline, the deal makes sense for both sides. The Hornets would get a player — a former North Carolina Tar Heel — who’s three years younger with greater upside around whom they could build in the future. The Warriors would receive a more accomplished all-around player at less expense possibly.
Batum will be paid $11.9 million this season, $8 million more than Barnes’ salary, but the Warriors can include bench-warmers Jason Thompson and Brandon Rush to even the bottom line.
The Warriors will have the right to match any offer for Barnes next summer. But he wants upward of $20 million per season, or nearly $8 million more than what reigning Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry will earn next season, the final year of his contract.
KERR TAKES ANOTHER STEP: If anybody in Warriors camp knew when coach Steve Kerr would return to the bench, their lips were tighter than a clam with lockjaw. But the morning shootaround might have supplied a hint.
There, Curry and Kerr resumed their free-throw contest, an indication that the coach’s troublesome back continued to make progress.
“A good sign,” Walton called it. “It’s fun for us to see, too. I know he likes doing that type of stuff and being out on the floor with the guys.”
“As far as how that means he’s doing in the overall picture, I don’t know,” Walton said. “His sense of humor seems like it’s come back, and it seems like he’s doing better more of the time, but you can still tell that’s struggling. It’s tough to get a gauge on where he is overall.”
IN THE HOUSE: Ex-Warriors great Nate Thurmond was the subject of a video tribute on the anniversary of one of the most dominant performances in his Hall of Fame career.
On Nov. 9, 1965, Thurmond hauled down 42 rebounds in a 107-102 victory over the Pistons at Civic Auditorium. The total remains the most by a Warriors player in one game since they moved to the West Coast five decades ago. Only Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell have had more in one game in NBA history.
BUSH STADIUM: Maybe 49ers running back Reggie Bush will salvage something out of this lost season, after all.
Bush is about to file litigation against the city of St. Louis on a charge of gross negligence, CBS Sports reported. The suit stems from a game against the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome last month, when the running back slipped on concrete after he ran out of bounds on a punt return. He tore his left MCL on the play.
One week before the incident, Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown hurt a shoulder when he couldn’t slow down on the hard surface, lost his balance and fell hard to the ground.
The Rams insist they have plans to improve the field conditions, but because team owner Stan Kroenke wants to relocate his team to Carson, Calif., before long, that sounds like so much talk.
UPWARDLY MOBILE: Expect Stanford to make a significant move upward from its No. 11 position in the FBS ratings today.
Last weekend couldn’t have gone much better for the Cardinal, who won convincingly at Colorado while No. 2 LSU, No. 7 Michigan State and No. 8 TCU joined the ranks of the once-beatens. No. 9 Florida also was less than impressive in its victory.
To have any chance to play in the postseason tournament, Stanford will have to sweep its next four games against Oregon, Cal and No. 5 Notre Dame and Pac-12 South champion. Its longest road trip will be all of 14 miles, and that’s for the conference title game at Levi’s Stadium — if it gets that far.
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