On Tuesday’s edition of the Warriors Weekly Roundable, Tim Roye said Festus Ezeli is the player who’s been the subject of the most questions submitted by fans. If Ezeli comes back this season it would be as the team’s third center. But after playing in 78 regular season games and 12 postseason games last season, it’s hard to blame people for wondering about his ongoing (and lengthy) recovery from offseason knee surgery.
So, I broached the topic after Wednesday’s practice, asking Mark Jackson the first of two questions about Ezeli. Antonio Gonzalez of the Associated Press asked the second question.
Q: Festus was back out there again today. If he couldn’t go this year, would there really be a reason to be working him out right now?
Jackson: Yeah, yeah. Great question, but yes. Because part of the process is him doing the next step. And the next step was him on the floor, doing individual workouts. Then the next step is one-on-one, or involved in practice. So, absolutely. But we have not said that he’s done and will not play for us this year. We know how valuable he is, we know what he brings to the table. Now is about him getting healthy.
Q: Why not say that? Is there a possibility that he comes back if you get further along in the playoffs?
Jackson: Because it’s still a possibility. Period. He’s working his tail off and doing everything he possibly can to be on the floor, to be part of this. As far as his impact in uniform, I don’t think it’s fair to him or the situation, because I don’t think it’s true to say, ‘Well, he’s done.’ We don’t know. We’re going to do everything we possibly can to put him in position to be on the court.
Since Warriors practices are closed to the media, it’s impossible to know what Ezeli is doing or the intensity of his individual workouts. The reason why I asked that particular question was because Ezeli seems to be more active now than he was a month ago. He still isn’t doing anything that would lead him to make contact with teammates, but in previous weeks/months he was on the exercise bike at the end of practice. On Wednesday he was taking shots at the same hoop as Jermaine O’Neal. It was the first time I’ve seen him dribble a basketball all season.
What could the Warriors expect from Ezeli if he’s able to make it back to the court before this season/postseason is over? Not much, besides maybe some extra rebounds, fouls and a presence in the post who’s too big to push around. However, if they lose Andrew Bogut or O’Neal to injury (which is definitely possible), Ezeli could help in a pinch if he’s healthy enough. The need for center insurance could be why the Warriors signed Hilton Armstrong for the rest of the season on Wednesday.