Andrew Bogut will play his first game in Oracle Arena as a visitor since Jan. 15, 2010, as his old team, the Golden State Warriors, plays host to his new team, the Dallas Mavericks, on Wednesday night.
Bogut played four seasons for the Warriors from 2012-16, capturing NBA All-Defensive honors while anchoring the league’s best defense as the starting center during Golden State’s 2015 title campaign. Then, the organization unceremoniously dumped the final year of his $36 million contract in exchange for a conditional second-round pick to clear cap space for the signing of Kevin Durant this past July.
Bogut told ESPN.com last month, “If I’m the GM, I do the same deal.” And in an interview with USA Today this week, while he described the breakup as “disappointing” and “bitter in a way,” Bogut again understood the business end of it. “They saw a vision where they wanted to get one of the best players in the world, and they already had the best player in the world, and that’s the way it goes.”
However, the soon-to-be 32-year-old Australian 7-footer did take issue with one aspect of the split:
Q: You took some hits on the way out of town, though. Your durability was questioned …
A: “Oh, who cares? I don’t care.”
Q: Even though it seemed like it was coming from the inside (of the Warriors)?
A: “But that’s how it is. I don’t buy into the sources thing. I don’t buy into all that (expletive), because this league is so two-faced and everybody is so fake. The same people who made those comments will see me tomorrow and shake my hand and ask me how my family is. This league is full of people who are full of (expletive) and shallow, and that’s what you figure out in pro sports. It’s very hard to meet a genuine person who you can call your friend in this league. That’s just the reality, and I understand that.
“People can take parting shots. I didn’t have a great Finals series obviously, with the injury, and finish off the way I wanted to, but that’s the way it goes. I’m not bitter about it. I could have played better definitely, especially on the offensive end. But I think defensively that I provided something for them that really helped that team win games.”
The “two-faced,” “fake,” “full of (expletive)” and “shallow” remarks bring back faint memories of Bogut’s March 2015 description of the league as an unhealthy environment to raise children, “Because everything’s monetary, everything’s about money and flashiness and what car you drive.”
While it sounds as if Bogut has had some unpleasant NBA experiences behind closed doors, it is difficult to find historical evidence of anybody inside the Warriors’ organization, on the record or off, outwardly questioning Bogut’s durability on his way out of Oakland this summer. But if that concern was raised publicly, it would not be the first time in his career someone has questioned his health.
Bogut has played no more than 70 games in a season since 2007-08. He missed all but 12 games with an ankle fracture in 2011-12 and was traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to Golden State that March. Bogut missed 50 games the following season for the same ankle issue and 15 games in each of the next two years for various injuries, including a right knee issue in December 2014. After being benched in the final two games of the 2015 NBA Finals, he dropped sugar from his diet and lost more than 20 pounds in an effort to be more agile. The result was his healthiest season in almost a decade, until bone bruises in his left knee again cost him the final two games of the Finals this past June.
Original projections estimated his recovery around 6-8 weeks, and even Bogut expressed concern he would not be ready for the 2016 Rio Olympics. But he returned — and was impressive — for Team Australia in August, averaging 13.7 points and 9.0 rebounds in 28 minutes over six games in Brazil.
In between, the former No. 1 overall pick was dealt from a contending Warriors squad to a Mavericks team that hasn’t been able to escape the first round of the playoffs in five years. Along the way, apparently, he hasn’t made too many friends, although he did express to USA Today an affection for the comfort of playing alongside guys who had each other all figured out the last two years.
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In Dallas, he’s endured some growing pains through the NBA’s first fortnight, especially as teammates Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams and Devin Harris have all missed multiple games. Bogut has started all but one contest during the Mavericks’ 2-5 start, averaging 3.7 points and 10.8 rebounds in 25.8 minutes. More importantly, he has anchored a top-10 defense that has coach Rick Carlisle optimistic.
“The way we’re presently structured, we have the ability to be a very good defensive team,” Carlisle said Tuesday, via The Dallas Morning News. “And so right now, that’s got to be our calling card.”
They’ll need it against a Warriors team that scores 108.4 points per possessions, good for fifth in the league, and hasn’t yet hit its offensive stride. Golden State isn’t without its flaws, though, as the team has fallen to 19th in defensive rating after ranking no worse than sixth with Bogut the last three years.
“It’s an adjustment for them,” Bogut told USA Today of the two halves he’s watched of these Warriors. “Obviously Draymond (Green), we had a really good sync defensively where when he got beat I was there. When I got beat, he was there, and it was automatic. We didn’t have to talk about it. It was just reads. We knew how to play, and Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson) did a good job of funneling guys to me and Draymond. Obviously they have to adjust to that when they go small now.
“I think OKC exposed us a little bit last season (in the seven-game conference finals) when we went small and they went big. They kind of exposed it. They went the anti-death lineup, which was staying true to who they were and should have beaten us hypothetically, so I think they’ll figure it out. I think it’s a long season. The season is too long. They’ll get in a groove here pretty soon, I’m pretty sure. Hopefully it’s not (on Wednesday night).”
As for any added emotion he may feel in his return, Bogut didn’t think there would be any, forecasting “a circus” that he’ll be “thankful when it’s over.” Such is the existence of a 12-year veteran playing in a league he finds “two-faced,” “fake” and “full of people who are full of (expletive) and shallow.”
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