OAKLAND – The toughest lineup decision still to be made this month by Warriors coach Mark Jackson got considerably easier Monday night.
Klay Thompson is likely to start at small forward in the preseason game at Utah Tuesday night because Harrison Barnes almost certainly can’t.
Barnes played only ineffective six minutes in Monday night’s 94-81 preseason victory over Sacramento, departing early due to inflammation in his left foot. The symptoms have been present for a few days, Jackson said, and Barnes was trying to fight through it.
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Jackson is stepping in and temporarily shutting down the second-year player in hopes the rest will help healing. The coach does not yet have an idea of how much time Barnes might miss.
"That’s for the experts,’’ Jackson said, presumably referring to the team’s medical and training staffs. "He probably will not play (tonight).’’
Barnes vs. Thompson is the fiercest battle in training camp. Both were starters last season, when Barnes was a rookie and Thompson was in his second season. Both delivered breakout performances in the postseason. Both played well to retain their place in the lineup.
But the acquisition of All-Star wing Andre Iguodala will force a starter-caliber wing to the bench. And it’s not likely to be Iguodala, a 10th-year veteran who has established himself as one of the league’s premier two-way players.
In the first two preseason games, it was Thompson – the first draft pick of the era ushered in by new owner Joe Lacob – who came off the bench. He was assertive, going to the basket with more authority than he did in his first two seasons.
Jackson, however, has made it clear that he continues to evaluate his lineup. The only set positions, he said, are Andrew Bogut at center, David Lee at power forward and Stephen Curry at point guard.
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Barnes’ ailing foot will provide, if nothing else, the coaching staff with an extended look at Iguodala and Thompson playing together.
"I just want to be fair to everybody and allow my eyes to tell me what’s the best way, moving forward, for us as a basketball team,’’ Jackson said. "It’s a process that I’m trying to see the chemistry that we have, the different ways that we start and the different ways we come off the bench.’’
New big man is not the old big man: Bogut still soaks his left ankle in ice after games. He still wraps an ice bag around his right knee. But he’s moving better on the court and he looks happier, which he attributes to feeling better than he has in years.
"As of August 1, no restrictions,’’ he said with a smile. "I was able to run around on soccer fields for an hour without any problems. Everything is just much better than it was.’’
Bogut has been hobbled by a fractured ankle sustained in January 2012, roughly seven weeks before he was traded by Milwaukee to the Warriors. He was in and out of the lineup last season but at this point expects to be a fixture.
"He’s healthy and whole for the first time in a long time,’’ Jackson said. "He hasn’t taken a day off unless I pulled him out. He’s been great. He’s been the guy that we traded for, and it makes us a better basketball team.’’