Not only is Andrew Bogut playing every game these days, blocking shots and grabbing rebounds, he seems like he’s enjoying himself. So after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 109-103, in a game where Bogut sealed the game with a layup that was almost a dunk (“You couldn’t put a piece of paper under my feet, that’s how high I got,” he said.), I asked Bogut a simple question.
Is this the first time you’ve had fun playing on the court since you’ve been a Warrior?
“I think so, yeah,” Bogut said with a smile. “Because winning cures everything. Obviously I was in a real dark place. Two weeks before this, for about three or four weeks it was a struggle for me. It’s been a very tough year for me mentally and physically, so just to be out there winning and playing is good.”
He says “obviously” about his dark mood, as if anyone with half a brain could see he was upset. That isn’t too far from the truth. He wasn’t at all happy to have to shut it down for almost three months after testing out his ankle in November. Then after returning, the Warriors won three in a row with Bogut in the lineup, but then lost four in a row with him starting at center. After an especially poor 116-107 loss at home to Houston on Feb. 12, a visibly frustrated Bogut compared the Warriors’ defense to excrement.
After that game was the All-Star Break, then a loss in Utah and a win against Phoenix. Bogut couldn’t even enjoy that win as he was forced to miss the next six games due to yet another injury, this time to his back.
March has been a much kinder month for Bogut. Since his return on the 4th, the Warriors have gone 8-4 and Bogut hasn’t missed a game. He readily admits that he isn’t where he wants to be offensively, but defensively he looks like his old self. Instead of slowly reacting to what goes on — which one would expect after a year without playing regularly — Bogut is blocking out opposing bigs like no other Warriors center in recent memory. He’s blocking shots in one-on-one situations and proactively flying over from the weakside to swat balls into the stands. The defensive effort and production is noticeable, and Bogut’s body is finally allowing him to contribute the way he has always wanted, the way he has always expected himself to play.
Stephen Curry talked quite a bit about Bogut after the game. He mentioned how he called a couple plays early on in Monday night’s win to get Bogut involved and how he knows exactly what Bogut has gone through with the whole ankle thing.
“It’s been a tough year. I can relate to that,” Curry said. “You come out of the summer with high expectations to be a part of a team after a big trade. I’m sure he envisioned things going differently … it’s been rough, kind of up and down. Now that he’s healthy, getting his game where he wants it is a task in itself. He has to be patient with it and I think he’s done that great. Now he’s showing how important he is to our success in the future.”
Bogut’s anger has mostly been at himself and also his situation, not his teammates — despite what it seemed like when he ripped the squad’s defensive effort after the loss to Houston. Now that he’s a part of a winning team for the first time in what has to seem like forever, he looks different on the court. He can laugh at his offensive struggles, and that’s the key … he wasn’t laughing much about anything a few weeks ago.