It's always difficult, if not traumatic, for competitors to concede defeat, so quitting in sport tends to occur through force, when resignation suddenly becomes the most attractive or, perhaps, the only survivable option.

Understand, then, that the Warriors don't want to give up. But surely they will.

They will not embrace surrender, though surely they must.

They have to take steps to save Stephen Curry from uncooperative ankles, because the long-term risk to the third-year point guard, and to the Warriors, far surpasses any realistic short-term benefit.

Curry, nursing a tender right foot, was a spectator Tuesday night in Indianapolis, where the Warriors opened the back stretch of their season with a 102-78 loss to the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

This is Curry's fourth lower-extremity injury this season, and at least his eighth since the team drafted him seventh overall in 2009. Prone to severe ankle sprains, he had surgery on his right ankle last May. Curry has since suffered at least three more sprains, sidelining him for nine games this season.

Curry wants to play, the sooner the better. That's natural. It's the customary mentality of the superior athlete. That the Warriors want him to play also is natural. They are in the business of sales, and Curry is one of their most marketable assets.

But enough is enough. A sober look at this predicament suggests it would be better for Curry and the team if he were allowed to completely heal, even if it takes two months.

Sit Curry now, conceivably for the rest of the season, so that he may play later -- even if it's for another team.

Sit him so that the Warriors may creep ever closer to some kind of resolution in the eternal debate over which of their talented young guards -- Monta Ellis or Curry -- is more integral to their future.

Sit him to allow for a more extended look at rookie Klay Thompson, the lottery pick, and fellow rookie Charles Jenkins, the second-round selection.

Sit him because it may improve your position in the draft.

The most obvious reason to sit Curry, though, is the pointlessness of playing him.

How could the Warriors possibly fashion a legitimate reason to hustle him back into a lineup going nowhere?

With three teams between the Warriors and the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth -- which usually is the first to disappear -- bold talk of postseason, a management staple only weeks ago, has become somewhat muted because even the shot-callers realize such chatter sounds a little more delusional each day.

Their season is drifting on the fringes of the NBA's outback, to the edge of national conscience and well out of the view of Teams That Really Matter. For every occasional sprint to a victory that suggests progress, there are two reality-check reminders that the Warriors remain much closer to what they have been for the better part of two decades than what new ownership aspires to be.

This is not at all what Joe Lacob had in mind when the new co-owner vowed, with much flair and flourish, to bring the playoffs back to Oakland. It's not what Mark Jackson envisioned when he departed the casual comfort of TV broadcasts for the hourly grind of coaching.

It is, however, the raw truth. Having a feel for Lacob and Jackson, I know that seeing their Warriors at 13-18 sits like burning coals in their bellies.

They want to show they mean business, that this is not the Chris Cohan era, except with an actual profile.

And they look over at Curry and sense the possibilities. He may be the best shooter on the roster. He certainly is the best playmaker. He has more heart and fortitude than is conveyed by his boyish visage.

But Steph has become the star whose talent tantalizes, as his ankles and feet tease. He is the Warriors' "if-only" presence, much as Darren McFadden is for the Raiders and Freddy Sanchez is for the Giants.

As unwelcome as this is, it could be worse. Curry's problems show no sign of going away, in which case his career could mirror that of former A's pitcher Rich Harden, the gifted right-hander who is by turns terrific and unavailable.

It's a lot for Jackson and Lacob to ponder. But they're smart men, able to see this season will be unfulfilling -- with or without Curry.

What's left is for them to decide when they can accept it.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.