Center Andrew Bogut knows what the Warriors laid on the line for him.

They parted with fan favorite Monta Ellis, a move that led to a very public booing for the owner. They endured 22 losses over the final 28 games, leading to accusations of "tanking" the season. They have waited, waited and waited some more while Bogut recovers from a fractured left ankle, all the while promising they knew exactly what they were doing.

The 7-foot Bogut is no big dummy.

"I know what this is about," Bogut said. "I know that in order for us to be really good, I have to be really good."

The fate of the Warriors' 2012-13 season -- which tips off Wednesday night in Phoenix -- rests squarely on the shoulders of Bogut. He is the missing piece, counted upon to turn a perennial disappointment into a legit playoff contender.

But Bogut doesn't have to go it alone. In fact, he has more help than he probably ever has had in his eight-year NBA career.

He is surrounded by shooters, including Stephen Curry, the other face of the franchise. Forward David Lee is expected to put up the gaudy numbers playing next to a true center such as Bogut. Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes highlight a cast of talented youngsters. And the bench is loaded with experience with Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson.

"I don't think Bogut by himself is good enough to make the Golden State Warriors a playoff team," said NBA TV analyst Chris Webber, arguably the Warriors' last dominant big man. "But he along with all the other big guys, they're good enough to make this team a playoff team and make them dangerous in the playoffs."


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The Warriors need Andrew Bogut, circa 2009-11. That is the Bogut who averaged 14.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and played with an edgy Australian rules football toughness. While smirking at the talk of pressure, Bogut said his focus is on being a leader, playing lights-out defense and demonstrating a complete game.

"I don't think there is any reason to expect otherwise. He's a veteran. He's been through this. He's seen a lot," said owner Joe Lacob, the man who received Warriors fans' wrath during a ceremony to celebrate Chris Mullin's jersey number retirement. "But at the end of the day, he's got to go out and perform. We wouldn't have done (the trade) if we didn't believe Bogut was the type of player who could deliver."

Knowing the stakes, Bogut and the Warriors have been extra cautious. He practiced fully Tuesday, his second consecutive stint. His status for the opener will be determined Wednesday, coach Mark Jackson said.

Bogut hasn't played since January, when he fractured his left ankle while with the Milwaukee Bucks. While he has targeted the season opener since having a second surgery in April, Bogut said his mind is on being healthy in March and April, when the Warriors plan to be making a playoff push.

What Bogut hasn't waited to do is assert his presence in the locker room. Even when he was relegated to the sideline last season, he could regularly be heard shouting at his teammates.

"I don't mind barking," Bogut said. "I don't mind getting the best out of guys. If some guys don't like me because I'm a (jerk), I really don't care. I'd rather be a (jerk) and make the playoffs than be a nice guy and drinking a beer in April back in Australia."

When he does take the court, Bogut said he does not expect to post gaudy numbers. His game hinges on being an adept shot-blocker and a physical presence, and his priority will be to make the Warriors a credible defensive team.

"With me out there, we are better," Bogut said. "Just being honest."

But he also looks forward to brushing off parts of his game that grew rusty in the rugged Eastern Conference.

Bogut said he will handle the ball. He will set up his teammates. He said even his midrange jumper is back now that his elbow, which he dislocated in a nasty fall, has had an extra year to heal.

"The best part about Bogut's game is that he can run the floor and stay quick with those guys," Webber said. "Him on the pick-and-roll, he can step out and shoot the ball, he can also go and attack the basket real hard."

His coach thinks Warriors fans are in for a treat.

"He's a top-five center in this league," Jackson said. "When he's healthy, people will see."

That's the rub, though: People haven't seen. And it explains why the Warriors aren't getting much love in preseason predictions. Few experts have them making the playoffs, and several predict they will be a doormat in the stacked Western Conference. And the biggest knock is whether they can stay healthy.

Bogut has played in just 58 percent of his teams' games the past four seasons. For the Warriors to have a legitimate shot, he probably will need to play at least 70 games for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

But just playing won't be enough. The Warriors will need Bogut to be an elite performer -- a fact that certainly isn't lost on him.

"People around here are hungry," he said. "A lot is riding on this year."