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Warriors are poised for improvement, but no promises

The Sports Xchange
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One of Mark Jackson's favorite phrases in his first year as coach this season was: No excuses.

On his first day following a promotion at season's end, new general manager Bob Myers created a new slogan: No promises.

The worst part about the season, at least in the eyes of Myers, wasn't the club's dismal record. It was the preseason assurances of Jackson and owner Joe Lacob that things would be better.

Much better.

Playoffs? In the wake of a campaign -- the 18th time Golden State has missed the postseason in the past 19 years -- in which the Warriors would have needed to win 57 percent more games to make the playoffs, it's hard to believe one guy, let alone two, would have guaranteed it.

But not next season. Not with Myers, a former player agent, having taken over the GM reins from Larry Riley.

The irony is: The Warriors appear far better off entering the 2012-13 season than they were when Jackson and Lacob got the faithful all fired up last offseason.

For the first time in more than a decade, the Warriors will trot out a legitimate center next season, having acquired Andrew Bogut from the Bucks for Monta Ellis at the trade deadline.

Bogut will team with power forward David Lee and point guard Stephen Curry to give Golden State a three-man nucleus that offers the team the type of versatility it lacked this season.

That's presuming they're healthy, of course. All three had minor surgery -- Lee on torn abdominal and abductor muscles, Curry on his previously surgically repaired right ankle and Bogut on a fractured left ankle -- during the final week of the season, putting them on schedule to begin rehabilitation by mid-summer.

Mix in impressive rookie Klay Thompson along with small forwards Dorell Wright and Richard Jefferson and the Warriors will go to training camp in the fall with -- get this -- a traditional starting five and at least one trustworthy reserve, even before the re-signing of key free agents Brandon Rush and Dominic McGuire is considered.

With the possibility of a high first-round draft pick (pending the results of the draft lottery) and enough salary-cap space to go after a mid-range talent, the Warriors are pretty sure they'll at least compete for a playoff spot next season.

But there are no promises.

SEASON HIGHLIGHT
One reason the Warriors felt comforted trading their leading scorer in March to get a legitimate big man was that Thompson, the 6-foot-7 rookie who would be replacing Monta Ellis, would give the team a taller defensive option at shooting guard. Little did the Warriors know he'd do so without giving up much of the firepower the 6-3 Ellis had provided.

In his first home game as the starter following the March 13 trade, Thompson helped comfort the many Ellis fans in Oakland by pouring in 26 points against the Celtics on 9-for-16 shooting. He went on to average 18.8 points in the Warriors' final 27 games, almost matching the 20.4 points Ellis had provided on a nightly basis before packing for Milwaukee.

TURNING POINT
The season headed in a downward spiral even before it began. When Curry sprained his surgically repaired right ankle in the final game of the preseason Dec. 20, the Warriors hoped for the best. Instead, they pretty much got the worst.

Curry, who had been deemed untouchable even as the Hornets dangled Chris Paul, played just 26 of 66 games, and struggled through most of those for which he suited up. One night before season's end, he had surgery on the same patched-up right ankle, assured once again he would be fine next season.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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