The Golden State Warriors have been devoid of depth at the center position for much of the 2013-14 NBA season. While starter Andrew Bogut has remained healthy, backup Festus Ezeli has yet to touch the floor, Jermaine O’Neal has been out since early December, and a slew of young guys have been shuffled in and out of the roster throughout the year.
The Warriors will be getting relief on Tuesday night as they face the Charlotte Bobcats, though. After being listed as questionable for the contest, O’Neal took to Twitter on Tuesday afternoon to announce that he would be back in the lineup against Charlotte, also adding that he hoped “the rhythm won’t take long to come back.
O’Neal hasn’t touched the floor since injuring his wrist on Dec. 9, but his return will be beneficial to the Warriors. O’Neal averaged 6.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 18.6 minutes per game in the 17 games that he played before his injury. Though his production wasn’t overwhelming, he’s important to the team’s rotations and their versatility.
With no real backup center for the Warriors to consistently put on the floor, that leaves them running small-ball lineups out there with Bogut on the bench more often than not. While this Golden State team has had success with those types of lineups, that look serves them better as something to go to switch things up and keep opponents guessing, not as their only option. O’Neal returning makes that able to happen.
While you have to worry about O’Neal, who’s 35 years old and has 17 seasons of mileage on him, holding up for the remainder of the year, he’s going to be helpful when he’s on the floor and in the lineup. Don’t be surprised if the Warriors look a little more spry, even if that’s a strange effect from getting an older veteran back in the lineup.