OAKLAND -- When Warriors coach Mark Jackson parked at Oracle Arena, he noticed point guard Stephen Curry was right behind him.
"I don't think it was a coincidence," Jackson said. "Almost like he was waiting in his car for me to pull up."
Curry has been desperate to get back on the court after a seven-month absence caused by an injured right ankle. His wait ended Monday against the Utah Jazz in the Warriors' second exhibition game. Curry totaled six assists to go with two points and two rebounds in 12 minutes, all in the first half, of the Warriors' 83-80 victory.
More important, he didn't appear limited. Jackson had limited Curry's participation in the first three days of training camp and held him out of the exhibition opener against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday in Fresno.
"It feels all right," said Curry of his ankle, adding that it felt great until he got tired. "It's a little sore, but that's to be expected. See how it feels tomorrow and then we'll assess Thursday's game. Hopefully I can play a lot more."
Monday's outing by Curry also kicked off a new era in Golden State basketball as, entering his fourth season, he is now the unquestioned team leader.
"He's ready," Klay Thompson, Curry's backcourt mate, said before Monday's tipoff. "He's worked hard for this."
With Curry back, the Warriors had three quarters of their core in action -- joining Thompson and power forward David Lee, who finished with 19 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. All that's missing now is starting center Andrew Bogut, still recovering from left ankle surgery. (Jackson has yet to decide on his starting small forward.)
But before Curry can lead this team, he has something to prove. Everyone is waiting to see how his right ankle, which kept him out 40 games last season, holds up.
So far, so good.
For the most part Monday, he operated as a facilitator, setting up teammates and moving the ball. But his activity on the defensive end, perhaps the biggest concern for his troublesome ankle, didn't yield any concerning movements. He fought over screens. He lunged for steals. He leapt recklessly for rebounds.
With just over three minutes left in the second quarter, he opted to create for himself. After dribbling at the right wing, sizing up Utah guard Jamaal Tinsley, Curry drove hard right. He then spun back to the middle, pivoting on that right foot, and netted a turnaround 18-footer.
It proved to be a mild, efficient return to action. Jackson said he was concerned Curry, so excited to be back on the court, would be too wound up. Curry said, surprisingly, he was able to take a pregame nap. But even he expected to be high on the adrenaline when he heard his name called for the starting lineup.
"I might cry," he joked.
It seemed conditioning was more of a problem than his ankle. Just before Curry checked out for good in the second quarter, he was bent over with both hands on his knees. Of course, for someone who hasn't played an NBA game since March 10, that could be expected.
"I was a player before, and I don't know if there is anything you can do about that," Jackson said before the game.
Maccabi Haifa at Warriors, 7:30 p.m.