It appears that Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut, whom we didn't see in the Olympics because of his broken ankle or the playoffs because he plays for the Warriors, has spent his offseason foraging through the woods for grub and venison and growing protection from his face so as to stave off the oncoming chill of winter.
Grew a beard, decided to look scary, freaked us all out on Media Day. And, after one of his first healthy practices as a member of the Warriors, Bogut decided to amp up the verbal intensity as GSW's biggest and baddest dude. From NBA.com:
"If there's not one fight in practice during the season -- you never want to fight just to fight -- but if there's not one little scuffle or one little verbal, something's wrong. Guys aren't competing, guys aren't there for the right reason, guys are just punching the clock," he said. "I guarantee you if you interview the Lakers and the Celtics with Paul Pierce and Garnett, there's scuffles at practice, there's physicality, elbows thrown. You have to go through that when the time is right. If something needs to be said and someone doesn't like it, you've got to go out and say, 'Hey, that's part of being the leader.' This team won 20-something games last season . Things have to change."
We agreed with as much, late last summer.
Things badly have to change for the Warriors, who followed up a ridiculous playoff promise from coach Mark Jackson last year with a deal involving its franchise-ish player in Monta Ellis and a winning percentage that would have earned the team just 29 wins over the course of a typical 82-game season. Of course, a longer season would have meant a longer training camp and more time for Jackson to work with the team in practice, but we're not entirely convinced this would be a good thing.
Bogut, with a bit of brawn, is attempting to change that. Though Jackson smartly won't re-engage on that postseason promise this time around, and backup center Andris Biedrins received some criticism for not working out with the team prior to training camp (a practice he's kept up every other year of his frustrating Warriors career), talking tough probably will help shake the cobwebs. The Warrior franchise has gotten too used to acting as part of the bunch over the last few years, even with ownership and regime change. And with rookie Harrison Barnes possibly rounding into the sort of NBA talent that could put a team over the top, Bogut is trying to stir the echoes a bit. Good on him.
The defensive-minded center hasn't made it to the playoffs himself since his rookie year in 2005-06 (he was injured during Milwaukee's 2010 first round defeat), a year before Golden State's inspired 2007 run. As we've detailed endlessly at Ball Don't Lie, a series of unfortunate freak injuries has denies us a chance to watch one of the league's most skilled big men do his thing over the last few years, not beginning nor ending with but culminating around a 2010 arm injury that even by the start of last season it appeared Andrew hadn't fully recovered from.
Over 2 1/2 years on, we're still waiting; and while we wouldn't expect Bogut to serve as the B-level imitation of himself that we saw during the 2010-11 season, the guy has quite a lot to overcome. Luckily for Bogut, he's got plenty of game, plenty of talent, a sound motor, and he doesn't turn 28 until the season's second month.
Turning around the mindset and then fortunes of the ever-rebuilding Golden State Warriors might be his stiffest challenge yet. Outwardly, at least, it appears Andrew has the makeup for it.