PHOENIX -- From the impact of Andrew Bogut to the emergence of Klay Thompson to the effect of Harrison Barnes to the overall health of the roster, lengthy is the list of uncertainties regarding the Warriors.

Beneath them, though, is at least one absolute truth: The Warriors officially have a new leadership.

The team officially has a new leadership structure, and at the top of it is Stephen Curry.

The Warriors are his team now, and they've never been that before.

Though Curry arrived in Oakland in 2009 with two licenses to lead, being a lottery pick and a point guard, he also grew up around the NBA and understood its culture. There is a hierarchy, and each team has a player who dictates rhythms and influences decisions -- a player who wields power.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, right, drives to the basket past Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard during the first quarter of an NBA
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, right, drives to the basket past Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard during the first quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game in Portland, Ore., Friday, Oct. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

On the Warriors, that player was Monta Ellis.

Curry felt this immediately, saw it later and always sensed it. So he bit his lip and respected it. He accepted his place and always, no matter what was said by coaches or anybody else, his place was behind Monta.

And now Ellis is gone, sent to Milwaukee in February as part of the trade to acquire Bogut.

When Monta left the building, taking with him his mood swings and mercurial nature, gone was the need to defer to the team's most electrifying and enabled player.

Nobody should benefit from this more than Curry.

As the Warriors open the season Wednesday against the Phoenix Suns, he is liberated from the shadow of Ellis, the cloud that was Monta. Steph should -- and I believe will -- thrive.


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"It's a blessing to have that responsibility," Curry says. "I don't take it lightly that Coach (Mark Jackson) has a lot of confidence in me to go out there and do it. I approached this season with that in mind, to go out and be a vocal leader on the floor.

"It does mean a lot to have that backing from the coaching staff, from your ownership and from your teammates as well."

That's what was missing, even as former coach Don Nelson publicly stated that Curry was his point guard, his coach on the floor. It was missing as Keith Smart said much the same thing, if less emphatically.

It was missing because Ellis was there, the veteran of Warriors tenure, needing the ball in his hands.

It's not missing any more.

"It changes the game, because Steph is playing with a more traditional (shooting guard)," Jackson says, referring to Thompson, who replaces Ellis. "Monta Ellis is an exceptional player. But he's also a guy that needs the basketball. And in order to be most effective, at times you have to run the offense though him.

"Klay Thompson is a guy that traditionally gets his through transition, off down screens and catching and shooting, which makes it easier for a guy like Steph, or a point guard, to run his show."

And, frankly, Curry has been surrounded by more talent than ever stood beneath Ellis.

Bogut is a legitimate top-five NBA center and conceivably the best passing center in the league. Power forward David Lee demands attention from defenses, as will Thompson and Barnes on the wings.

"Teams are going to have to guard all five guys on the floor," Curry says. "They have to be concerned about who is going to finish plays for us. We are going to be tough to guard."

Nelson occasionally made a point of saying Curry has a lot in common with one of his former point guards, two-time MVP Steve Nash. The coach was right. Like Nash, Curry is a superb shooter with a knack for finding soft spots in opposing defenses. And when he doesn't find a teammate to exploit a weakness, he can do it himself.

And that's the underrated element to Curry's game, partly because he suppressed it in the presence of Ellis. Though Curry flashed that ability whenever Ellis was out of the lineup, he tended to defer upon Monta's return.

Curry no longer has reason to suppress or defer, which is precisely as his coach wishes.

"I want him to be aggressive on the floor," Jackson says. "I want him to be a guy that's making plays. He's more than a great shooter. He can use that deceptive speed to get to the paint, and he can be a handful."

Curry has watched video of the great point guards, from Jason Kidd to Chris Paul to Deron Williams to Nash. He has picked up tips, little things that should spice his game.

He has most of it, though he still needs to penetrate more assertively and get to the free-throw line.

"That's the next step," Curry says. "With hopefully everybody healthy this year, we'll develop chemistry. I think I'm up to the challenge to make the right play and be as aggressive as I can while adding things to my game that I didn't have my first three years.

"We're going to go as far as myself and the core guys can take us. We understand that. We have a good roster. If I take care of my business, we have a great chance to be really successful this year."

It's a different look and feel to these Warriors, a more open locker room and a more unified team. Everyone knows who has the ball and everyone likes the work habits of the leader.

So they will cast their lot with Bogut and Lee and Thompson and Barnes, and with an improved bench. And all of them will follow Curry, now free to lead.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/1montepoole.