It didn't take Jarrett Jack long to explain why he and fellow first-year Warrior Carl Landry hit it off so well.
"Nothing was handed to either one of us," said Jack, a backup point guard who is playing his third consecutive season with Landry. "We bring that workhorse, that blue-collar mentality. He's the kind of guy you want to take with you into a dark alley. He's a tough kid. Just how he is. He's built that way."
There is no doubt that Landry, a forward in his sixth NBA season, has injected toughness into the Warriors' lineup. Years of being doubted, setbacks and grinding through adversity have birthed the relentlessness on which the Warriors are relying.
"He knows who he is and why he's had success," NBA TV analyst Greg Anthony said. "He plays to his strengths. He knows what he can do out on the floor. ... He doesn't let his ego get in the way of his game. He's wise beyond his years."
Landry, 29, earns his money because of his ability to score inside. At 6-foot-9, and without being the most explosive athlete, he has developed into a reliable low-post scorer. A key Warriors reserve, Landry is averaging 12.9 points on 55 percent shooting with 6.7 rebounds in 25.6 minutes.
He said his post game was polished during his first two-plus seasons in the league with the Houston Rockets. In practice, he went up against 7-6 center Yao Ming, legendary shot-blocker Dikembe Mutombo and defensive specialist Chuck Hayes, an East Bay native
"He didn't take it easy on me, and I didn't take it easy on him," said Hayes, now with the Sacramento Kings. "He's skilled. To be honest with you, Carl has gotten stronger over the years. And by him getting stronger, he's actually become a better defender.
"Carl's got great hands, man. For an undersized player down there, he swallows those basketballs. If he gets his hands on that ball, he grabs it and he's going to finish."
Landry's low-post game wasn't the only reason the Warriors wanted him.
The Warriors needed the type of guy who took a gunshot to the calf (in an incident after a car accident in Houston in March 2009) and was back in the lineup 21 days later. The type of guy who nine months later got three front teeth knocked out by an elbow and missed only one game.
"You can say you're tough, but not a lot of people have stories like that to back it up," Warriors general manager Bob Myers said. "That guy's tough. He's so tough, he doesn't have to say it. Everybody just knows it."
Myers flew Landry to Las Vegas during the summer league to express his interest. In August, Landry signed a two-year, $8 million deal with a player option for the next season.
Landry credits his path, which wasn't the typical route to the NBA.
At Vincent High in Milwaukee, he was cut from his freshman team and survived the final cuts for the junior-varsity squad as a sophomore. He spent his two years on the varsity riding the bench. After not being recruited, Landry gave junior college a shot. He went to Vincennes University in Indiana, the same school Shawn Marion attended before UNLV.
There, he dominated enough that he finally was recruited after his sophomore season. He chose Purdue over Oklahoma.
With the Boilermakers, Landry averaged 18.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. He sat out most of his senior season after suffering a torn right anterior cruciate ligament, but he received a medical redshirt to play one more season and led Purdue to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Still, when the first round of the 2007 NBA draft concluded, Landry's name had not been called. He was taken as the first pick in the second round by Seattle, just shy of the respect, security and money he thought he deserved. On top of that, the SuperSonics traded him to a frontcourt heavy Houston squad.
"I thought I was going overseas," Landry said. "All I could do is go into training camp and work my tail off. I went out there and played well, landed a one-year deal, non-guaranteed contract. And it was still a hurdle."
Landry became a key contributor off the bench for Houston, including in the playoffs his first two seasons.
He was having a breakout year in his third season, averaging 16.1 points and 5.5 rebounds in 52 games, when the Rockets traded him to Sacramento for Kevin Martin in a three-team deal. After 81 games with the Kings, Landry was dealt to New Orleans for guard Marcus Thornton and cash.
Landry's stint with New Orleans lasted 64 games. Last season was a down one by his standards: 12.5 points and 5.2 rebounds off the bench. He missed 25 games, mostly because of a sprained left medial collateral ligament. The Hornets decided not to re-sign him, which left him looking for a home this summer.
The grind Landry has endured is paying dividends for the Warriors. It figures to show in games such as the one Wednesday, against a Utah Jazz team that normally dominates the interior.
Now the Warriors have a player to dump the ball to inside. They have a guy who can draw a foul, who embraces contact.
They also have a player with the characteristics they want to define them as a team: grit, hustle, resilience.
"Nothing has ever come easy," Landry said. "But anything worth having, you've got to work for it. You have to beat everybody out for whatever you want. It's not going to land in your lap."
Warriors (18-10) at Utah (15-14), 6 p.m., CSNBA