Many diehard Golden State Warriors fans were exasperated last year when Joe Lacob and company sent Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks for a seven-footer with a broken ankle who hadn't played a full season in the last six years.
Sure, Andrew Bogut is an elite defender, passer, rebounder and shot-blocker with outstanding agility and athleticism. But he is none of these things when he is sitting on the bench in a suit.
Yes, Stephen Curry has the jump shot, court vision, work ethic and character of a franchise guard. But his fragile ankle has prevented him from establishing a reliable track record of production.
No doubt Klay Thompson has the size, skills and silky stroke to be the Dubs' future at the two. But can he get to the cup like Monta? Can he create for his teammates like Monta?
Eleven games into the season and Bogut is still in a suit. He's played only limited minutes in four games.
And sixth-man extraordinaire Brandon Rush is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Yet, headed into Wednesday's matchup with the Nets, the Warriors sit at a respectable 6-5, notching impressive road victories against the Clippers, Timberwolves and Mavericks while barely losing a few heartbreakers down the stretch.
But for the Warriors to establish themselves as a playoff team in the Western Conference, they need Stephen Curry to be the warrior he was Monday night at Dallas.
After tweaking his ankle on the foot of Bernard James, Curry sat on the floor for a moment, in the throes of visible frustration. But something must have clicked, because he stood up a changed player.
A player with a fire burning inside.
A refusal to let this ankle, this injury that consumed most of last season, limit him again.
A refusal to let another close win get away.
And with every passionate clap and exhortation, with every clutch contested three and needle-threading dime, a picture began to develop.
A picture that screamed out to the world with clarity and force when he chased down a fast break, stripped the ball free and crashed to the floor beneath the hoop.
Stephen Curry had arrived.
And as he sat momentarily to collect himself, you could see in his eyes that he was a man possessed. A man in the zone of what many agree was the best game of his career.
This is exactly the player the Warriors need to solidify their position among the West's top eight teams.
The player who takes over at the end of close games to will his team to victory.
The player whom the Warriors knew they had when they decided to trade away their best scorer.
If this is the player that shows up every night to lead this deep and talented team, Warriors fans have every reason to start believing again.
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