A day after multiple NBA executives anonymously raised serious doubts about the competence of the Los Angeles Lakers’ brass to Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck, Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut threw some more gasoline on the fire.
In a conversation with The Mercury News’ Mark Medina, the well-traveled 34-year-old former No. 1 overall pick relayed his distaste for a Lakers front office led by team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka. Bogut said the team reneged on its pledge to keep him on the roster for the entirety of the 2017-18 season by releasing him just days before his contract was set to be guaranteed.
“The Lakers told me I’d be there the whole year,” Bogut told Bay Area News Group. “They went against their word and waived me at the deadline. Whatever. That was their decision.”
“I was basically lied to,” Bogut said.
Bogut signed a non-guaranteed veteran minimum deal with the Lakers in 2017, choosing the playing time available in L.A. over several other suitors offering lesser roles. He appeared in 24 games before the Lakers released him four days prior to the January deadline to guarantee contracts. The decision cost Bogut $1.2 million.
He told Medina that he reluctantly signed the non-guaranteed deal with the Lakers, because he understood the team’s reservations about his health. After all, he had broken his left leg less than a minute into a late 2016-17 stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers. According to Bogut, however, the Lakers vowed to guarantee his deal if he stayed healthy, even assuring him they would not be cut for financial reasons.
Soon after his January 2017 release, Bogut expressed frustration with the Lakers.
"Getting released by the Lakers kind of blindsided me a little bit after the [positive] discussions we had with management leading up to it," Bogut told ESPN in April 2018. "I guess they thought that I would ask for a buyout and try to join a playoff team because the Lakers obviously didn't have the chance to make the playoffs."
But his displeasure was far more pointed this time around, via Medina:
“I took their word for that stupidly,” Bogut said. “It’s part of the business. But it’s disappointing because I have two young kids and all that. I was stupid enough to take their word on something I shouldn’t have.”
For their part, the Lakers informed Medina that they would have made no such assurances “out of concern that it could violate NBA rules” and that they would have simply offered him a guaranteed contract if that was what they intended.
While Bogut told ESPN that he had several playoff suitors in the final months of last season, he instead returned to his native Australia to play in its National Basketball League, citing the death of his grandfather and health concerns for his pregnant wife as additional reasons for staying home. Bogut played out the 2018-19 season with the Sydney Kings, averaging a double-double in 30 minutes per game.
Bogut has also long been critical of the NBA’s business side, calling the league “two-faced” and “fake” after the Warriors dumped him to make room for Kevin Durant in 2016. (He then described his new team as a target for bird droppings.) Still, he returned to the Warriors on another veteran minimum deal last month, so maybe there is hope for reconciliation with the Lakers down the line.
In the meantime, this does not reflect well on the Lakers, even if it comes from someone who has previously entertained problematic conspiracy theories. The front office has found it difficult to deal with opponents who have accused them of tampering with their star players in recent years, and word travels fast around the league when teams allegedly do not play it straight financially with free agents.
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