Not everyone gets to play

It’s all good around the Warriors these days — and why not? They’re obviously better than they’ve been, the future looks bright and they’re coming off impressive, shorthanded wins over Utah and San Antonio.

Now’s the time for praise, right? Actually, it isn’t.

Trouble looms.

We’re not talking about predictable challenges such as the schedule evening out or whether the team can get healthy. Indeed, problems will arise when the team gets to full strength.

Optimists are making a good case that when coach Don Nelson has all the pieces of his rotation, the Warriors will thrive. We’ll see. Reality suggests when everyone heals, a few will realize their minutes have dwindled.

Before, it seemed reasonable to expect youngsters Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis to play 20-25 minutes per game. Now, you realize that wasn’t reasonable at all. They need to play MORE than that.

Baron Davis, Mickael Pietrus and Ike Diogu are on the mend, so brace for minutes-squeezing. It’s going to dawn on some that 35 minutes a game is no longer a given and that if you want to play that much, you better be playing pretty darn well.

Who knows which players will take a minutes hit? Could be anyone and likely will be at various times. Nelson can be a barrel of laughs, but he’s got a cold side when it comes to who gets to play.

Witness Ellis’ removal after just three minutes and Anthony Roberson’s harsh 32-second stint against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday. But everyone is susceptible to the harshness of Nellie, including Mike Dunleavy, who had a pair of back-to-back 13-minute stints this season, and Troy Murphy, who already has logged a pair of 18-minute jobs and one 11-minute cameo.

A few will come to understand that limited playing time is more rule than exception. That’s when things get interesting. That’s when we’ll find out how much these players want to turn this thing around and want to end the dozen-year playoff drought.

Will players, disappointed as they may be with roles, be productive with erratic and/or reduced playing time? Or will they sincerely sacrifice? Nelson proves nightly he’s willing to let non-productive pouters linger on the bench. Everyone agrees that’s good strategy.

But for the Warriors to max out and be there come April, Nelson needs everyone in — even those players who aren’t pleased that they’re not in as much as they want to be.

For a team with little margin for error, mental defections will be costly because the Warriors need every bit of their depth.

Nelson might hurt some feelings along the way, but make no mistake, the guy knows what he’s doing. Nelson can coach.

Now, it’s on the players.

Who’s in?

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.

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