Captivating season gives Warriors hope for future

Rookie forward Draymond Green walked out of Golden State’s

practice facility Friday holding a yellow ”We Are Warriors”

shirt, taking home the small souvenir to savor the team’s

captivating playoff run.

Even though the season ended so painfully, the Warriors will

carry more positive memories from the 2012-13 campaign than they

ever imagined back in training camp. No banner will be raised and

no rings will be awarded, but there was a sense of accomplishment

all around.

”The expectations for us this year, we exceeded all of them

plus way more,” Green said.

The Warriors overcame injury setbacks all season to earn a rare

playoff berth, pulled off a first-round upset against Denver and

pushed the four-time champion San Antonio Spurs to six games in the

Western Conference semifinals. The franchise won more postseason

games than it had in 36 years and might be on the brink of

something even more special.

If Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut can find a way to stay

healthy, the Warriors believe they can be a major championship

contender in the coming years.

”I think so,” Curry said. ”We’re young. We have a great core.

And for us to get to the level we got to this year, two wins away

from the Spurs to get to the Western Conference finals, you feel

like you have the confidence to do it, the right pieces to do it.

It takes a lot of things going for anybody to win a championship,

but I feel like we have the pieces to do it.”

At the start of the season, Warriors general manager Bob Myers

referred to his revamped roster as ”good on paper.”

Questions persisted about how Curry would return from two

surgeries on his troublesome right ankle and whether Bogut’s

surgically repaired left ankle would hold up. Coach Mark Jackson

even joked that his family’s financial footing depended on his

inside-out duo staying healthy.

Curry averaged a career-high 22.9 points and 6.9 assists per

game. He made 272 3-pointers – three more than Ray Allen’s record

of 269 set with Seattle in 2005-06 – shot 45 percent from the

floor, including from beyond the arc, and elevated his game to star

status in the playoffs.

Bogut began the season in the lineup before missing 50 of 82

regular season games, acknowledging he rushed back too soon. While

still hobbled by the left ankle, he broke out in the playoffs to

give Golden State the lift it had hoped for inside.

By the time Thursday night’s 94-82 home loss to the Spurs ended

the season, Bogut said he ”was so jacked up on

anti-inflammatories” he couldn’t take an injection in his ankle to

ease the pain if he wanted to.

”I think it was hell for me for four months. And the last three

weeks until (Thursday), for me, were great,” Bogut said.

Bogut plans to spend the summer splitting time between his

native Australia and Croatia with family and friends. He expects to

be at full strength by training camp and his goal is to play all 82

games next season, which he has never done since Milwaukee drafted

him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2005 out of Utah.

All-Star power forward David Lee tried to gut his way through a

torn right hip flexor for most of the playoffs and plans to have

surgery in the coming weeks. Top reserve Brandon Rush should be

back as well after he tore a ligament in his left knee in the home

opener. And dynamic rookie Harrison Barnes, who sat out the final

quarter with headaches after taking a hard fall, sported six

stitches above his right eye but said he’d be just fine – and so

would the Warriors.

”I think when people look at this team, coming in next year,

they look at us as legit,” Barnes said.

The Warriors will be somewhat limited in free agency this

summer.

The two biggest questions will be deciding whether to re-sign

free agent Jarrett Jack and possibly Carl Landry, who is likely to

opt out of the final year of his two-year, $8 million deal. Both

Jack and Landry said they hope to be back next season, citing all

the right phrases players usually use.

Whether the Warriors can afford them remains unclear. If Landry

does opt out, Golden State will be at about the $70,307,000 luxury

tax line already, give or take a million.

”Being a realist, you probably can’t keep both of them,” Bogut

said.

Myers is expected to address the roster when he meets with

reporters Monday. Jackson spent Friday holding exit interviews with

players, but he praised his team following its season-sending loss

the previous night, saying ”it’s inspiring to think of what we

were able to accomplish this year and the foundation that has been

laid.”

”It was a great season for us as an organization,” Warriors

owner Joe Lacob said. ”We turned it around is the bottom line.

This organization and this team needed to be turned around and a

lot of things had to happen for that turnaround to happen.”

Golden State’s biggest reason to be optimistic lies with its

greatest asset: Curry.

For the first time since his rookie season, the dynamic point

guard will be able to work on his game and not rehab his right

ankle. Curry said he’s looking forward to giving his legs some rest

for a while and wants to concentrate on getting to the free throw

line more next season when he resumes practice.

With most of the key contributors set to return next season, he

doubts he’ll be able to stay away from the court long.

”You can’t help but be excited about taking that next step next

year,” Curry said. ”And the challenges that will bring also, but

you try to live up to that pressure.”

Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at:

www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP