With yet another discouraging setback following a declaration of progress, the Warriors have to acknowledge that they simply cannot rely on Andrew Bogut.
Not this week, not this month, not this season, maybe not ever.
Bogut, suffering from back spasms, wasn't with the Warriors on Sunday in Minnesota, where they stole a 100-99 victory over the Timberwolves, and the team is saying he will remain out "indefinitely.''
As much as he detests being in the lineup one night and out the next, this is Bogut's status until further notice. The Warriors will be better off if they assume the 7-foot-1 center's absence and adjust when he's able to join them -- if they presume Bogut is out, period, and consider
This will put considerable burden on Bogut's teammates and even greater onus on the coaching staff, so much that if the Warriors somehow win 48-50 games with the big man boomeranging in and out of the lineup, well, Mark Jackson ought to be rubber-stamped as your NBA Coach of the Year.
Though Jackson's chief lieutenant, combo guard Jarrett Jack, would of course deserve an assist, any coach who can juggle two rosters with two completely different identities and successfully adapt on the fly has overachieved.
Consider that Bogut was thought to be the key to the Warriors making a playoff run, much less entering March holding down one of the eight Western Conference berths.
When Bogut returned Jan. 28, ostensibly ready for action, the plan was for him to play every other game under a 25-minute limit until he was totally cleared.
That came last
It was, finally, go time for the Warriors.
And now that outline is deleted, which is why it's pointless to depend on Bogut to be a part of any plan.
The back spasms that sidelined Bogut on Sunday could, and should, force him to miss the team's weeklong trip.
To recap: Four days after being cleared to play every game, with extended minutes, Bogut conceivably will miss a week or more.
It gets worse. The MRI test on Bogut revealed a protruding disk, which opens the possibility for severe pain for the big man and deep anxiety for the Warriors.
Back troubles sent Larry Bird into retirement. Back trouble limits Lakers guard Steve Nash for several years. A disk ailment eventually forced Dwight Howard to have surgery from which he still is, 10 months later, trying to recover.
So whatever intentions Jackson might have had for his playing rotation over the final seven weeks are gone. The coach is back, for now, where he was two months ago.
"We're going to trust the process,'' Jackson told reporters in Minneapolis. "We're going to be patient with his back. He's going to get treatment. And when he's ready, he'll join us, whether (on this trip) or at some point. But we're going to be very patient with it, make sure that he's right.''
That has been Jackson's mantra in regard to Bogut. Trust the process. There is no choice when every breath of good news is followed by a blast of bad.
Bogut turned 28 in November, but his body may be 10 years older. He shattered his right arm (dislocated elbow, broken hand, sprained wrist) three years ago. Then he had the ankle fracture last January, which led to surgery last April.
Where this leads, who knows? Bogut was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back in February 2009 and has missed at least one game every season since then.
So here are the Warriors, straining for credibility, making a push for the playoffs, being forced to adjust once more.
They have shown themselves quite capable of playoff-caliber hoops without Bogut. Can they do it over the final seven weeks of the regular season?
Well, yes. They can if Jack continues his stellar salary drive, if Carl Landry stays productive, if they get decent minutes from Andris Biedrins and Festus Ezeli.
Based on the pattern we've seen with Bogut, they might even be better off.