Time for Golden State to become road Warriors

Getty Images File PhotoOn the rise: Warriors coach Mark Jackson

It’s December, the Warriors have the fifth-best record in the Western Conference and they’re fifth in the NBA in rebounding. Maybe the Mayans were right after all.

While it’s still very, very early in the NBA season, the signs coming from Oakland have been extremely encouraging.
After years of the run-and-gun style of Don Nelson, coach Mark Jackson’s vision for his team is starting to come to fruition.

The Warriors are snatching more than 45 rebounds per game one season after finishing as the NBA’s third-worst team in that category. Golden State is also surrendering just 98.9 points per game. That still places the Warriors in the bottom half of the league in points allowed, but it’s a stark turnaround for a franchise that has allowed opponents to score more than 100 points per game every season since the 2005-06 campaign, most of those in the Nelson era.

And all of this has been done essentially without injured center Andrew Bogut, who is currently neck-and-neck with Halley’s Comet as to which will return first.

As Golden State (10-7) is set to embark on a grueling seven-game road trip starting with tonight’s game in Detroit against the Pistons, whispers of the P-word have started to creep into conversation.

But before we channel our inner Jim Mora and start talking playoffs, let’s exercise a little patience.

Granted, it’s been as good a start as anyone associated with the Warriors, who have reached the playoffs just once in the past 18 seasons, could ask for. The rookie class of Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green has been a breath of fresh air. The trio has played in 17 games and all are averaging at least 11 minutes per game. It’s almost unheard of for three rookies on the same NBA team to have that big of an impact.

David Lee, averaging 17.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, has been a force, while veterans Carl Landry and Jarret Jack have been invaluable off the bench.

However, questions remain. Can the rookies hold up? Will Bogut play this year? Can Klay Thompson’s shooting become more consistent? And the age-old question: Can the Warriors stay healthy??The upcoming stretch of seven road games should provide a nice litmus test. The seven games feature four against sub.-500 teams — Detroit, Washington, Charlotte and Orlando — and three against probable playoff teams — Miami, Brooklyn and Atlanta. Those seven game will be played in just 11 days, testing the Warriors’ depth and mettle.

With so much of the season left, this road trip won’t make or break the Warriors. But a 5-2 or 4-3 trip will certainly start bringing some of the buzz back to Oracle Arena. It might even be time to crank up the volume on those playoff whispers.

Dylan Kruse is the sports editor of The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at dkruse@sfexaminer.com and followed on Twitter @dkruse16.

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