At 28-17, the Golden State Warriors have been one of the most pleasant surprises in the NBA and that's been largely without the player who was expected to be their cornerstone on both sides of the ball.
Andrew Bogut has played in only 17 games in the last two seasons while dealing with a variety of ailments. However, when healthy, the 7'0 245 center can give the Warriors a legitimate low-post threat as well as a defensive anchor, two things their undersized front-line desperately needs.
Golden State of Mind, SB Nation's Warriors blog, has a report on how Bogut looked in his first game back on Monday.
The ultimate ceiling of their team is still a little unclear, but we could begin to get a better idea on Thursday, when they take on the Dallas Mavericks in the night-cap of the TNT double-header. The game is expected to tip at 10:30 p.m. EST from the Oracle Arena.
The Mavericks, meanwhile, are still struggling to integrate their own All-Star 7'0 back into the line-up, as they've gone 6-6 since Dirk Nowitzki returned from off-season knee surgery. At 19-26, they're barely hanging on in the playoff race and they're coming off a devastating 106-104 loss to Portland on a LaMarcus Aldridge buzzer-beater.
Mavs Moneyball, SB Nation's Mavericks blog, has a fairly pessimistic look at the mood around the team following Tuesday's heart-breaking loss.
They will be without Chris Kaman, who suffered a concussion in practice earlier in the week. However, the team has played better when they've played faster and more defensive-minded centers like Elton Brand and rookie Bernard "Sarge" James, a 27-year old former Army major whom they took out of Florida State in the second round, in his place.
And while most of the attention will be upfront, the battle in the back-court could end up being the difference. Dallas will need a strong game from Darren Collison, who will get a chance to match-up with Steph Curry, one of the younger PG's whose passed him in the NBA hierarchy.
On the wings, OJ Mayo and Klay Thompson will square off in a battle of shoot-first, shoot-second and defend later shooting guards. Warriors rookie Harrison Barnes, aka The Black Falcon, will have his hands full with wily veteran Shawn Marion, whose defied the aging curve by remaining a productive two-way player at the age of 34.