Andrew Bogut’s ‘absolutely sensational’ journey back to the NBA Finals
Yesterday’s announcement of the Australian Boomers FIBA World Cup squad drew widespread praise, including a claim from NBL legend Lanard Copeland it’s “the most talented squad Australia has ever had”.
It’s a fair call too as the squad features nine NBA players, including two number 1 draft picks, and an NBA Championship ring winner who is presently poised to add another ring to his gigantic hand:
The Australian big-man returned home last year to take up a central role with the Sydney Kings – a franchise he is now a part owner of – and the strength of his NBL performances week in, week out saw him recalled to the superstar-stacked Golden State Warriors to help secure a 4th Championship in 5 years.
That plan is on track – the Warriors are in the NBA Finals again, with Bogut acting as a security blanket to a team overflowing with all-star talent.
It’s been an extraordinary year for Bogut, whose return home injected unmatched star-power into the NBL and directly contributed to the code enjoying its most successful season in decades, but the call-up from the Warriors to return to the NBA came as a surprise.
“It’s been a crazy road over the last 18 months, with everything going on but it’s been great, I’m thoroughly enjoying it,” Bogut tells Mark Levy and Mark ‘Piggy’ Riddell on Macquarie Sports Radio Breakfast.
“Obviously to have a chance to come over here and be part of a squad that’s going to the NBA finals again is absolutely sensational and probably something that if you asked me about a year ago, I probably would’ve called you crazy and all kinds of funny names, but it’s great to be here.”
The NBA is basketball’s gold standard, and while the NBL is no bush league it’s no secret that the gap in standard and intensity is significant.
Bogut says he wasn’t worried that his decision to return home had sapped him of his ability to compete with the world’s best.
“I spoke to Steve [Kerr, Warriors head coach] before I came over and basically just told them that I’m not expecting anything and if I get out on the floor, I get out on the floor and I’ll contribute the best I can,” Bogut said.
“I’ve actually played more than I expected to, I didn’t expect to play at all really, I was kind of singed as an insurance policy but we’ve had a few injuries and I’ve averaged about 10 minutes a game throughout the playoffs and had some pretty good games and some games where I didn’t play as much but it’s just great to be part of this situation.”
Bogut won an NBA Championship with the Warriors in 2015 and said he was welcomed back into the organisation with open arms.
“It’s funny, honestly it’s like I never left and the relationships I built with a lot of these guys the first time around, just coming back into that locker room was cool, it was a big thing for day and the next day it was back to business and like I’ve never left,
“We still have some of the same jokes we used 3 or 4 years ago, the same kind of banter, and nothing really has changed from that aspect and that’s the beauty of keeping a team together for a long period of time.”
The injury-troubled Warriors are waiting to see who they will face in the NBA Finals, either the Toronto Raptors or the Milwaukee Bucks. Kevin Durant’s calf has kept him off the court but DeMarcus Cousins is making good process with his injured quad.
Bogut is confident they will return but is wary about firmly committing to any timeframe.
“Probably not game 1, I don’t think, but they’re making strides, KD has a calf issue and anyone who has had a calf issue knows you’ve gotta be really cautious because if you come back too early from that you can re-aggravate it and be in all sorts,
“DeMarcus actually practised today for the first time since his injury and felt pretty good, so depending on how he pulls up he could be ready early in the series.”
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