GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (28-17)
Safe to say, no team in West has surprised more than the Warriors. Beyond simply the fact that they’re winning, it‘s that they’ve won through rebounding and defense. Those strengths may be further bolstered with the return of center Andrew Bogut. The rugged (if fragile) Aussie, who suited up for Monday’s 114-102 win in Toronto, had played just four games while recovering from offseason microfracture surgery on his left ankle. In 24 minutes, he notched 12 points, eight rebounds and four blocks, the latter two stats indicative of what he can provide on the glass and defensively.
That presence may not arrive instantaneously, as Bogut presumably deserves some blame for a 22-point outburst from Aaron Gray, who’d scored a whopping 46 points on the season(!) before Monday. However, Bogut’s track record is that of a premier low-post defender and deserves the benefit of the doubt. Good health assumed (and talk about a “making an ass out of u and me” proposition), Bogut could be a big asset down the stretch.
Based on a one game sample size – Bogut was held out of Tuesday night’s win at Cleveland – the odd big man out will be rookie Festus Ezeli, who’s actually been surprisingly good while starting nearly every game this season. However, his growing pains may not be appreciated as the Warriors jockey for a potential first-round playoff series with home court advantage (although Andris Biedrins’ ability to fall out of a rotation should never be discounted.)
SACRAMENTO KINGS (17-29)
The All-Star reserves were announced last week, and with the Dubs’ David Lee joining starters Bryant, Howard, Paul and Blake Griffin, the Kings found themselves the only Cali squad without representation in Houston come Feb. 17. The news itself isn’t terribly shocking. Save DeMarcus Cousins, an argument can’t even be made that anybody in Sacto produces at an All-Star clip.
What might shock you is how long it’s been since a King suited up for an All-Star game: 2004, when Brad Miller and Peja Stojakovic made the trek to Staples Center in Los Angeles. Even worse, Cousins appears to be the only player paced to break the streak – despite the Kings having drafted from the lottery every year since 2007 – and it remains debatable whether Boogie is worth the headache accompanying his talent.
Reason #1,241 this franchise is a freakin’ mess.
Brian and Andy Kamenetzky are sportswriters and radio hosts who have worked in sports media for over a decade. They have covered the Lakers and the NBA for eight seasons, for both the LATimes.com and ESPN.com, as well as ESPN The Magazine. Follow them on Twitter at @KamBrothers.