OAKLAND — One guard back, another one out.
Stephen Curry will likely return to the starting lineup, but backcourt teammate Monta Ellis is expected to be absent when the Golden State Warriors host the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.
Curry participated in noncontact drills during Friday’s practice and said his sprained right ankle should be healthy enough to play against Philadelphia in the finale of a four-game homestand. Ellis was excused from the workout to attend his grandmother’s funeral in Mississippi and it’s unclear when he’ll return.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson said he told Ellis to take all the time he needs before returning to the Bay Area. Ellis’ grandmother, Mary Cole, died on Christmas morning at age 89.
Ellis still played each of the first three games, including a Christmas night loss to the Clippers. Golden State (2-1) has won its last two games, beating Chicago and New York. Ish Smith is expected to make his second straight start if Ellis doesn’t return against Philadelphia.
“Family is first,” Jackson said. “He lost a grandmother who he loves dearly, and we want him to take as much as possible, or as much time that he needs, to take care of home.”
“It’s someone he loves dearly. It’s tough,” Jackson added. “As a family of team members and staff, we’re very supportive of him and we’re there for him and his family.”
The other half of Golden State’s dynamic duo is working his way back from another setback.
Curry sat out Wednesday night’s 92-78 victory over New York after landing awkwardly on his surgically repaired ankle in the previous game against Chicago. He said the ankle is still sore, but that it “feels pretty good.”
Curry took a flight to Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., on his day off Thursday to work in the company’s lab on a lower, wider shoe that will give him extra support. Team trainers also are trying a new taping technique for his oft-injured ankle.
“I wanted to get in the lab and see if there was something about the shoes I was wearing that maybe didn’t fit my foot right or something that maybe we could do to put in the shoe to make sure I don’t turn my ankle to the outside because I naturally have that rotation,” Curry said. “They’re still analyzing all the data that we collected. I changed to do a different style of Nikes for (Saturday), and hopefully that will help and I would think we found a fit that will allow me to avoid those injuries.”