By ANTONIO GONZALEZ
OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson jokes that his family’s financial future depends on it. General manager Bob Myers turns to inspirational quotes not to dwell on it, and fans and reporters always question it.
For all the moves made and money spent, Golden State’s entire season is resting on two surgically repaired ankles recovering — and staying at — full strength through a grueling 82-game schedule.
Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut, a dazzling guard-center combo if healthy, also form a duo that has struggled to stay on the court before it ever came together — and still hasn’t really come together yet. Bogut didn’t play during the preseason, and Curry sat out the last two exhibitions after he sprained his right ankle again.
There are no playoff predications from Jackson heading into his second year. No scintillating sound bites from the former broadcaster and point guard, either. Just the promise that if the franchise’s futility doesn’t turn around soon, aggressive owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber could make more changes next summer.
“I don’t care who I’m coaching, the pressure’s always going to be to win and do the job,” Jackson said. “Certainly we have a better basketball team and I think there’s added pressure across the board. I don’t run from it, I embrace it.”
Myers, the former sports agent promoted from assistant general manager at the end of last season, said the roster he helped assemble is “good on paper.”
The true test of the season, though, will not be looks.
It will be durability.
Curry, one of the NBA’s best shooters when healthy, missed 40 of 66 games last season and has had repeated problems with the ankle throughout his career. The former Davidson star had arthroscopic surgery in April and had surgery to repair a tendon in the ankle in the summer of 2011.
The fourth-year point guard is eligible for an extension with the team until Oct. 30 — the night before the season opener at Phoenix — or he will become a free agent next summer. Myers has said the team plans to pick up Curry’s extension by the deadline, though that was before Curry sprained his ankle again in Golden State’s 101-97 preseason win at Portland last Friday night.
The Warriors also said Bogut is on schedule and has not had any setbacks on his surgically repaired left ankle, which he fractured on Jan. 25 while with Milwaukee and missed the rest of the season. He came to Golden State in a trade for guard Monta Ellis, among others. Bogut had hoped to return for the season opener, but the team has not set any deadline, and even if the 7-footer from Australia played it likely won’t be for extended minutes.
“It is frustrating and it does play on me a little bit. But at the same time, I look back at the injuries that I’ve had and that could happen to anybody,” said Bogut, the 2005 No. 1 overall pick. “I can’t control landing on somebody’s foot, and I can’t control coming off the rim.”
The Bogut-Curry combo, if healthy, has solid support around it.
Power forward David Lee, who has averaged close to a double-double most of his career, will start along second-year shooting guard Klay Thompson and either Brandon Rush or seventh overall pick Harrison Barnes of North Carolina at small forward. Golden State is deeper than in recent years, too, with Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and Richard Jefferson complementing rookies Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli, who both impressed enough during the preseason to be considered rotation players.
Jackson has had more time to prepare this season than last, when the labor lockout eliminated most of the offseason and training camp and limited practices during the crammed 66-game schedule. Injuries also decimated the roster, which has been quickly reconstructed under Myers, and that has all involved more optimistic than anything after going 23-43 last season.
“There’s a lot of excitement in here,” said Curry, who expects to start opening night. “The roster is deeper and we have a little bit more experience than we did last year. Hopefully we can get the season off on the right foot.”
The fear is still health.
Myers often flips to his phone for inspirational quotes to keep him focused and motivated. He admits he thinks about his stars’ sturdiness “often,” then thinks backs to one of his favorite phrases by writer Ralph Waldo Emerson that starts: “Don’t waste life in doubts and fears.”
Jackson always has tried to concentrate more on the players who are healthy than the ones who aren’t. But looking at his roster, he also knows Curry and Bogut are the key to Golden State’s success — and perhaps his own future.
Jackson said the reason he made the bold playoff prediction when he was hired last year was to “change the culture” of a losing franchise that, despite only making the playoffs once since 1994, is consistently among the NBA’s top-10 in attendance and whose fans are among the most vocal in the sports saturated Bay Area. He said the team’s mindset has changed and there is no need for words anymore.
“Ultimately it comes to a point where, enough of the talking,” Jackson said. “Go out and do it.”