The Golden State Warriors gambled by trading Monta Ellis, their leading scorer, for injured Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut. And yet the Warriors have made the playoffs just once since 1994 and haven't had a talented true center in years, so maybe this wasn't such a big risk for them after all.
"I hope I'm a steal," Bogut told Yahoo! Sports. "The main topic of conversation is my injuries. I am doing everything in my power to get as healthy as possible and as strong as possible to play these next two years on my contract as hard as I can for the Warriors, and hopefully that leads us to some playoff games. The biggest thing with me is what I do on the court – and making sure I'm on the court."
Bogut is a well-rounded center. He can score in the post, shoot from midrange, block shots, run the floor well and pass like a guard. In 2010, he was a third-team All-NBA selection. When healthy, Bogut ranks himself as one the "top two or three" centers in the league.
Bogut, Warriors general manager Larry Riley said, is "the ingredient we've needed for so long."
Said Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers: "If he stays healthy and [guard] Steph [Curry] stays healthy, than you've made a heck of a trade."
Staying healthy has been Bogut's problem. Bogut hasn't played more than 69 games in a season since 2008. A lower back injury helped limit him to 36 games in 2008-09. Late in the following season, he dislocated his right elbow, broke his right hand and sprained his wrist after falling hard to the floor following a dunk. He has been limited to 12 games this season after breaking his left ankle on Feb. 25 against the Houston Rockets.
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Bogut doesn't know if he will be able to play for the Warriors this season. The swelling has subsided in his ankle and he has an MRI in two weeks. Nor has he decided whether he will play for Australia in this summer's Olympics – the Warriors will have a say in that decision.
"My injuries aren't classic injuries due to conditioning or being overweight or being out of shape," Bogut said. "They are just freak game ones. Hopefully, I can put them behind me now. I'm professional with my rehab. If I can get back in two weeks than I'll do everything in my power to do that."
Riley said the Warriors' team doctor, the Bucks' team doctor and two independent doctors expect Bogut to make a full recovery.
The Warriors won't admit it publicly, but they could benefit from having Bogut – and Curry – sit out the remainder of the season. If the Warriors' first-round draft pick isn't among the top seven this year, they have to send it to the Utah Jazz. They currently have the 11th-worst record in the NBA.
If the Warriors continue to lose and land one of the top seven picks in the lottery, they will keep their pick, along with the first-rounder they received from the San Antonio Spurs in the Stephen Jackson trade. This year's draft is deep, and the Warriors could add a pair of promising rookies next season to go with their core of Bogut, Curry, rookie guard Klay Thompson and forward David Lee.
In the back of their minds, the Warriors fear Ellis could become an All-Star in Milwaukee, joining the long list of players who turned into superstars after leaving the franchise. But if Bogut stays healthy?
"It's a young talented team," Bogut said. "We'll see how this season goes. You could throw a couple of draft picks in there to get some more young talent. Klay Thompson is a good young talent. It's a good, young team all in their 20s.
"We don't really have any old dogs. You need some veteran leadership every now and then, but it's an exciting franchise to be part of."
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