Uphill battle awaits Golden State Warriors

They are the NBA’s mystery team, led by a coach who never has coached, constructed upon two guards with divergent problems, and opening with games that may get them in headlines and perhaps into a hole from which the Warriors can’t escape.

Their past is haunting, 16 seasons of the past 17 unable to make the playoffs. Their future is promising, if the words of Mark Jackson — a man of many words as a TV commentator before switching jobs — are to be believed.

“The culture’s got to change,” Jackson said when named coach in June, “and I’m excited about changing the culture.”

He’s got his chance. He’s got his challenges. He’s got his worries.

Three games in four nights at Oracle Arena to begin for the Warriors, starting Christmas against the new hot team, the Los Angeles Clippers. Then it’s the day after Christmas against the Chicago Bulls and two days after that, Dec. 28, against the New York Knicks.

Or if you choose to identify by the names on the back of the jerseys and not the front: in order, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul; Derrick Rose — last season’s MVP — and Joakim Noah; Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.

The Warriors very well could be 0-3 by the middle of next week.

Especially if the sprained right ankle incurred by guard Stephen Curry in Tuesday night’s exhibition against the Sacramento Kings doesn’t heal quickly. It was the same ankle that bothered him a year ago and on which he finally needed surgery.

Especially if Monta Ellis is distracted by the sexual harassment lawsuit against him and the team filed Wednesday by a former Warriors employee, Erika Ross Smith, who claims Ellis sent her explicit messages.

The Warriors always seem to get attention for the wrong reasons such as losses, injuries, off-court issues — Latrell Sprewell choking P.J. Carlesimo. What the Warriors need is a winning record and, no less importantly, a franchise player.

The NBA is a league of stars, of Kobes, LeBrons and Dirks. The Warriors are on ESPN on Christmas because of their opponent, the Clippers, whose controversial acquisition of Paul has made them the biggest story in Hollywood, over the Lakers.

Yes, with a new coach, some roster changes including the addition of 7-foot Kwame Brown, a longtime bust who may now be a benefit, the Warriors are a team in transition. And yes, under Jackson they seem to be emphasizing that defense required to be successful in the NBA.

Still, who has a legitimate idea what Golden State may accomplish, and whether those opening three games, all at home, could be major trouble?

How does Ellis respond to the suit? Athletes often are able to compartmentalize, leave the real world behind when they pick up a ball or a bat.

How does Curry’s ankle respond? And is it a pattern to be repeated? Warriors commentator and former player Jim Barnett pointed out during the broadcast from Sacramento that when an ankle has been stretched and sprained numerous times, as Curry’s has been, recovery is now slower.

“We’re a no-excuse basketball team,” Jackson said after Curry was carried from the court. “We still have to go out and execute our game plan and fulfill the promise.”

The Bay Area is waiting.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.

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