The new owners of the Warriors have made it known they intend to change the culture of the team, with their signature move being the acquisition of center Andrew Bogut in exchange for fan favorite Monta Ellis last season.
At first glance, that move doesn’t seem to have had much of an on-court impact, as Bogut did not play for the Warriors at all last season, and has played in only four games this season while still recovering from surgery on his ankle.
And yet, the Warriors are 8-6 heading into tonight’s game against the Denver Nuggets and entered Wednesday’s games tied for third in the league in rebounding as a team, an area Bogut was supposed to be key in turning around for the team.
A big part of the team’s success has been the impact of the team’s rookies. Harrison Barnes has made a splash with his ability to score from anywhere on the court, but perhaps just as important has been Festus Ezeli, who stepped into the starting roster and made his presence known on the defensive end of the floor in Bogut’s absence.
“Obviously we’re a better team with [Bogut] around,” Ezeli said. “But while he’s gone I’m just doing my best with my teammates. And my teammates are making that very easy for me, he’s making that very easy for me as well. … So far we’ve been doing well without him, but we’ll be a better team when he gets back.”
Though Bogut’s timetable for a return is still up in the air, he is still having an impact on the team, and on the young center.
“Before every game, he always comes to me and tells me what players’ tendencies are,” Ezeli said. “He’s a veteran. He’s played these guys a lot of times. Post defense, he’s been helping me with that. Little stuff here and there. Stuff I can’t even tell you like before games or during practice he always finds something to tell me.”
Bogut fits nicely into coach Mark Jackson’s vision of a defensive team, a mantra he has stuck by since being hired to lead the Warriors before last season.
Even still, the Warriors have a long road ahead of them if they want to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and just the second time since 1994. They are neck-and-neck with the Los Angeles Clippers for first place in the Pacific Division, but the Los Angeles Lakers are surging after swapping coaches.
They will look for payback tonight against a Nuggets team that handed them a 102-91 loss the day after Thanksgiving.