A year ago at this time, when Andrew Bogut was in training room purgatory trying to heal his myriad injuries, the Warriors would have dreaded a three-game trip like the one that starts Friday night against Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets.

It's still a foreboding junket. The Warriors will be facing three big, physical teams over four nights in the Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies and Charlotte Bobcats, all clubs that try to dictate the tempo and texture of the game from inside the paint.

Hence, if you have any doubt as to a healthy Bogut's importance on this particular trip, consider the words of forward Marreese Speights. Speights played a season and a half with Memphis in 2011 and 2012, and said when the Warriors came to town, the objective was always simple.

"The main focus was out-bullying them, and making sure you hit 'em a couple times," said Speights, now a Warrior. "That was the mindset every time they played against us."

With Bogut now fully able and willing to bully back if necessary, such tactics are not only less likely but less likely to be effective. That said, the Warriors' rejuvenated big man will have his hands full on this trip, starting with Howard in his new Houston digs Friday.

The Warriors will catch a break in Memphis with center Marc Gasol out with a sprained knee, but there's still Zach Randolph with whom to deal. Charlotte has a like force in Al Jefferson, and the Bobcats also have another 7-foot beast in Cody Zeller.

"They have big guys on all three of these teams," Bogut said Thursday. "Memphis is a little banged up, but this is still going to be a tough battle for us. There are tough matchups for everybody."

Coach Mark Jackson feels a whole lot better about a trip like this, though, with Bogut manning the middle. He brings the toughness the Warriors simply didn't have last year while he was on the shelf rehabilitating his surgically repaired left ankle.