OAKLAND -- Andre Iguodala has had a great view of the good, the bad and the ugly sides of the Warriors' play since he felt a pop in his left hamstring.

Fantastic finishes aside, the Warriors will host the stout Houston Rockets on Friday night with a pressing need for what the still-rehabbing swingman can provide as a shot creator, finisher in transition and defensive presence.

Most believe Iguodala, 29, makes the circle complete, although the Warriors showed they still can circle the wagons, in spectacular style. They rallied from 27- and 18-point deficits to upend Toronto and Dallas in back-to-back home wins. Stephen Curry's 19-foot jumper beat the Mavericks 95-93 on Wednesday.

"We miss Andre Iguodala, probably our best guy at breaking down defenses and getting into the paint area and making plays, along with Steph," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said.

Iguodala, who addressed the Bay Area media Thursday for the first time since suffering a strained left hamstring Nov. 22 against the Los Angeles Lakers, said he's feeling "pretty good" and making steady progress.

Iguodala didn't offer a timetable for his return but seems to expect it to be sooner rather than later. He said he is running, jumping and shooting well, but it's the sharp cutting, an NBA necessity, that might need a little polish.

He believes he can rely on his instincts as a 10th-year player to manage his game effectively. But hammies can be tricky reads.


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"The hamstring is one of the toughest muscles to heal," he said. "There's some crazy numbers out there of guys that get reinjured from hamstrings. So being really careful with it, but still getting a lot of work in. Our trainers are doing a really good job. I'm running at good rate now, and my body weight, so things are looking good."

The hardest part, he says, is seeing the team struggle and being unable to help on the court.

Center Andrew Bogut would love to have Iguodala in the mix against the rebuilt Rockets, who pounded the Warriors in a 105-83 win Dec. 6 in Houston. Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard took advantage of Warriors' foul trouble to take it to Bogut and David Lee inside.

"It would definitely help us," Bogut said of Iguodala's return. "He's a potential All-Star player. Very good on-ball defender and a very unselfish player, so his ball movement is something that is very underrated for our team. He generally gets eight to 10 assists a game just from moving the ball, and he guards their best player, so we definitely can't wait to have him back."

Iguodala, whom the Warriors acquired from the Denver Nuggets in a sign-and-trade in July, appears to be making good use of his time as a spectator the past 10 games.

He sees the holes he can fill on the court, like everyone else.

"I see certain things that I don't see when I'm out on the court," he said. "How certain guys react to certain situations, whether they miss a shot or whether they get a call for them. How long has it been between touches for certain guys? So that's going to help me when I'm out on the court. Seeing what plays work, seeing what gets us in these offensive droughts and seeing what plays get us out of them."

He has to fight the urge to try to return to soon.

"You can trick yourself into believing your body is feeling all right, but it's not really there," he said. "Our strength-and-conditioning guy tore his hamstring this summer. He came back four times and tore it four times again. So I guess I could listen to him, because he's been through it."

As for all those slow starts, the Warriors have trailed in the first quarter in 12 of their past 22 games. Comebacks make for great theater but can mask glaring deficiencies.

"It's not a good thing," Bogut said of the past two back-from-the-dead thrillers at Oracle Arena. "The positive is we fought back, but we need to rectify and address why we're getting down that early.

"We haven't started a first quarter well for a number of weeks, so we have a lot of work to do in that department. Our second half (against Dallas) was tremendous on both sides of the ball, but we're still trying to find consistency for 48 minutes, both offensively and defensively."

And that's where Iguodala comes in. His tough perimeter defense helps keep Bogut from picking up cheap fouls when players get into him, the center said.

"We definitely can't wait to have him back," Bogut said. "Obviously, we have some good defenders, but Andre's in the top three on our team. He definitely cleans up a lot of mess out there."

For more on the Warriors, go to our blog at www.ibabuzz.com/warriors.

FRIDAY'S GAME
Houston at Warriors (13-10), 7:30 p.m. CSNBA

INSIDE
Jermaine O'Neal will have wrist surgery. PAGE 3