Warriors' Festus Ezeli out at least 6 weeks after knee surgery

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  • Festus Ezeli
    Festus Ezeli
    Nigerian basketball player
  • Andrew Bogut
    Andrew Bogut
    Australian basketball player
Warriors big man Festus Ezeli will be sidelined for at least six weeks. (AFP/Thearon W. Henderson)
Warriors big man Festus Ezeli will be sidelined for at least six weeks. (AFP/Thearon W. Henderson)

After missing five straight games with soreness in his left knee, Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli underwent arthroscopic surgery "to clean out debris from his left knee," the team announced Monday.

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The 26-year-old big man, who hasn't suited up since Golden State's Jan. 25 win over the San Antonio Spurs, is expected to miss at least six weeks recovering from the procedure, but is expected to return before the end of the regular season in mid-April. From Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:

“It’s a big loss,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “Hopefully, he’ll be back before too long. Festus is a huge part of our rotation. He’s really had a good year, an excellent year. … I just feel bad for Festus. It’s a contract year, he’s young and he’s already had a knee surgery. We’re just keeping our fingers crossed that he’ll be OK.” [...]

“He brings us a lot of energy and a presence to back up” Andrew Bogut, Warriors point guard Stephen Curry said of Ezeli. “… We’d love to have him healthy for the playoffs.”

The 6-foot-11, 255-pound Ezeli is averaging career-highs nearly across the board, posting 7.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 17.8 minutes per game, shooting 55.7 percent from the field. His ability to clear the glass, protect the rim and finish on the interior has meant that the Warriors rarely experience much drop-off — except, of course, in the passing/playmaking department — when veteran Bogut goes to the bench. Golden State has grabbed a higher share of rebounds with Ezeli on the court than off it, and opponents shoot just a tick worse at the basket with the Vanderbilt product defending at the cup than when the Aussie's patrolling the paint. Bogut and Ezeli have both held the opposition to sub-44 percent shooting, according to NBA.com's SportVU player tracking data, marking them both among the league's most effective interior deterrents.

The Warriors have set the league aflame by virtue of their capacity to generate buckets in bunches by playing small-ball without losing a step defensively with versatile star Draymond Green sliding from power forward to center. With Bogut on hand, reserve Marreese Speights showing signs of life recently and capable of stepping into a larger role, little-used bigs Jason Thompson, James Michael McAdoo and rookie Kevon Looney available for spot duty, and that hellacious jammer of the Death Lineup still in the holster, it's not as if Golden State will find itself bereft of answers in Ezeli's absence. But making history and winning a championship require contributions from up and down the roster, and the Warriors figure to need Ezeli — who played a major role in Golden State's 2015 Western Conference finals win over the Houston Rockets, and some significant minutes in the NBA Finals win over the Cleveland Cavaliers — ready and able at some point in their pursuit of a second straight championship.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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