OAKLAND -- It's hardly a revelation that the Warriors face an awesome task trying to beat the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference playoffs without center Andrew Bogut. A lot of experts are already saying Golden State doesn't have a chance.
But if experience counts for anything, the Warriors at least have a man replacing Bogut who has sizable playoff assets in his career account. Jermaine O'Neal has played in 90 postseason games, almost double that of any player on either team, and this will be his 14th trip -- more times than the two franchises combined have even been to the playoffs over the previous 35 years.
Of course, O'Neal is 35 years old now, not the player he once was, and he faces the unenviable challenge of going up against a front line featuring Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, two young, strong and high-flying athletic players who have to be licking their chops knowing they don't have to worry about Bogut banging and bullying their midsections in the paint.
But O'Neal is not backing away from the assignment. Since this postseason very well could be his last hurrah as an NBA player, he's looking for an exclamation point to a great career.
"I've been through this before, so I know what it takes," he said Thursday. "The best thing for me, there's no back-to-backs. I can prepare, get my body right and focus for the next game. I'm excited. If you can't relish these types of opportunities, I don't know that you're a competitor at this particular level."
O'Neal has played in only 44 games this year. He missed 25 straight games after December surgery on his right wrist. He's missed games with a right foot contusion, bruises to both knees, and also missed time with a groin strain. But he's made it to the finish line, ready for what he initially signed with the Warriors for -- a playoff run.
Coach Mark Jackson hasn't decided if he'll start O'Neal in Bogut's place or go with a smaller lineup utilizing second-year forward Draymond Green in the post alongside power forward David Lee. But Jackson noted the team would use both combinations and that O'Neal surely will see heavy minutes.
"I'm sure it means a lot to him," Jackson said. "He's a guy who's given us everything in his tank. He's a proud guy who's had a tremendous career, and to be on a huge stage against an outstanding team with bigs that are going to challenge him, I would think he would feel there's no better way to close it out."
O'Neal, who hasn't said for certain he'll retire after this season -- his 17th in the NBA -- isn't framing it that way.
"I haven't thought much about this being my last playoffs," he said. "My thought process is making sure my mind, body and soul are ready to compete in a very intense environment. You know the world is watching, so you want to give your fan base and your team something they can be proud of."
Taking on an additional load is just part of the deal in the postseason, he added.
"Everybody on this team has to do more anyway," he said. "That's what the playoffs are about. You have to elevate your game to another level, and the only difference now is I'm going to have to play more minutes right away. Those types of things don't affect me. I have a job to do, I expect to do it well, and that's my personal challenge."
Might the Clippers underestimate what damage O'Neal might do?
"Not a lot of people expected what he was able to provide for us the whole year, so it's kind of the same narrative," said Stephen Curry.
"Just dealing with the emotions of it," he said. "The first time, you're so amped up and you have to learn to value each possession. That's the lesson we learned against the Spurs. We outplayed them for almost three games and only got one win out of it. So you have to finish games out, play a full 48 minutes at both ends of the floor and really know your opponent well and what their strengths are."
"It was great for him to get a rhythm," the coach said. "Obviously, offensively he got it going. Defensively, he looked like himself. It only makes us a better basketball team, because we need him to play at that level."
"He flares his arm around so you know you might catch a random elbow or something that doesn't, you know, rub off too well on guys," Thompson said on 95.7 The Game. "He's kind of like a bull in a china shop, kind of out of control sometimes."
Griffin was asked for his reaction. "This isn't my thing," Griffin told reporters Thursday. "I play basketball. I don't want to get into a back-and-forth. I think we're ready to play. Sounds like they are too. It's going to be exciting."
A look how the 2013-14
statistics of injured starting center Andrew Bogut (left) compare with backup Jermaine O'Neal (right):
67 Games 44
26.4 Minutes 20.1
7.3 Points 7.9
10.0 Rebounds 5.5
1.81 Blocks 0.91
WARRIORS VS. CLIPPERS
Game 1: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. at Los Angeles, ABC
Game 2: Monday, 7:30 p.m., at Los Angeles, TNT, CSNBA
Game 3: Thursday, 7:30 p.m., at Warriors, TNT, CSNBA
Game 4: April 27, 12:30 p.m., at Warriors, ABC
Game 5*: April 29, TBD at Los Angeles
Game 6*: May 1, TBD at Warriors
Game 7*: May 3, TBD at Los Angeles, TNT, CSNBA