From the sound of it, Warriors point guard Stephen Curry is a long shot to play in tonight's game against Memphis. His sprained right ankle has gotten better, but likely not enough.
You know what that means? The ball is in Jeremy Lin's court.
"Less confident as last week, but don't want to rule it out," Curry said after Tuesday's practice. "Still realizing we're at game four right now -- 78 to go. I want to make sure it's 100 percent before I step on the court."
Curry said he's got the swelling down and now it's a matter of getting it strong enough so he can endure without easily rolling it again.
If Curry can't go, coach Keith Smart is left to juggle a committee of fill-ins. Guard Monta Ellis will carry most of the load. But when Ellis is out of the game or playing off the ball, Smart needs an option he's comfortable with that doesn't drastically change what the Warriors do.
That's where Lin comes into the picture. No, he's not going to start at point guard. But he's improved enough in Smart's eyes to be able to pitch in.
If Lin, an undrafted rookie out of Palo Alto High and Harvard, can give Smart eight to 10 minutes tonight, that's a significant chunk the Warriors can go without having to take others -- such as swingman Reggie Williams and small forward Dorell Wright -- out of their primary positions.
"These guys have to be in their position," Smart said. "That's why it's so important for a guy like Lin if he can come in and give us quality minutes at the backup point guard for now until we get healthy. That's a big plus if he can come in and keep us organized, take care of the basketball, know where to go on the floor and do what he does well."
That Smart is considering Lin is a testament to Lin's improvement. Early in training camp, Lin wasn't ready to touch the floor in an exhibition game. But he has grown enough that Smart felt comfortable playing him against the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.
In 16 minutes Sunday in Los Angeles, Lin showed he can have an impact on defense and get to the basket. Though he missed four of his five shots and finished with just two points, Lin left an imprint on the game: four steals, three assists, five fouls and no turnovers.
Lin also caught Smart's eye with his ability to force tempo. The trick for Lin, Smart said, is knowing when to push and when to slow down and run the offense.
"Few little minor details that he has to clean up," Smart said of Lin's performance Sunday, "but he knew what he wanted to do. He got in there and called a few offensive sets and got the team organized. I thought when he came in the game, he really forced the tempo a bit, which is what you want. He made a big, big jump."
Note: The Warriors declined to offer forward Brandan Wright a contract extension by the Nov. 1 deadline. So Wright will become a restricted free agent at season's end, joining the likes of Portland's Greg Oden, Oklahoma City's Jeff Green, Detroit's Rodney Stuckey and Houston's Aaron Brooks. Only six first-round draft picks from the 2007 class received extensions.