If two months ago you realistically thought that Andrew Bogut would be starting for the Warriors in the 2019 postseason, then you should probably buy a lottery ticket.
The current circumstances call for Bogut to play an increasingly important role on the team, and the early returns are quite favorable, as shown by his eight points, 14 rebounds and five assists in 25 minutes of the Dubs’ Game 3 win in Los Angeles on Thursday.
“Andrew [Bogut] has been a god-send,” Head Coach Steve Kerr said prior to the game. “The reason it was such a great signing for us, is not that he’s just a hell of a player, but because he has been with us and he is so familiar with what we do.”
“Getting him back was really fortifying for our roster. Obviously now with DeMarcus’ [Cousins] injury, it becomes a huge addition. Andrew is a brilliant basketball mind. He’s one of those guys when you call a play or teach him a play, he gets it right away. He understands where all five players should be and he understands why you’re running the play. He just has beautiful feel for the game.”
Bogut’s first tour with the Dubs ended in injury in the 2016 NBA Finals, and until his Dubs re-debut on March 18 in San Antonio, he had played in 51 NBA games with three different teams – Cleveland, Dallas and L.A. Lakers – over two seasons. Of course, he spent this past season with the Sydney Kings in his native Australia, where he was the NBL MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and earned All-NBL First Team honors after averaging 11.4 points, a league-high 11.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.7 blocks in 29.7 minutes over 30 games.
When Bogut returned to the Warriors last month, it was what Head Coach Steve Kerr, among others, described as an insurance policy. Damion Jones had been the team’s starting center at the start of the season but has been out since Dec. 1 with a torn pectoral muscle. Kevon Looney started some games at center and has well as he has performed, he isn’t a traditional center. And Cousins was playing really well until he went down four minutes in to his second career playoff game with a torn quadriceps muscle.
Upon re-signing with the Dubs, Bogut knew he was coming in to back up Cousins and play spot minutes depending on matchups. His number one intention was to be a good teammate and do whatever he could to help the squad win a third consecutive championship.
For Bogut, being a good teammate now includes more than just waving a towel on the bench and communicating helpful advice to the team’s younger bigs. It’s actually producing on the court, protecting the paint and quarterbacking the team’s defensive effort on the floor alongside Draymond Green. It’s setting screens, making the right pass to the streaking cutter or finishing off opportunities created by the team’s top scoring threats.
On Thursday, Bogut did all of that. He made four of his five shots, including a nifty left-handed hook from just inside the free throw line, and finished the game as a plus-24 in his 25 minutes of game action.
After the game, Draymond Green was speaking to the media when a reporter started to ask, “Does Bogut look better …” before Green interrupted … “Hell yeah. I don’t know what you about to ask, but he looks amazing. It’s been incredible to have him back,” Green said. “Bogut has been incredible for us. Absolutely, stepping into that starting lineup, he played a huge role for us.”
Bogut’s 25 minutes were the most he has played in an NBA game since January of 2017. He averaged fewer than that amount during his initial Warriors tenure, and now here he is as a glorified insurance policy logging those minutes in the team’s most important game of the season so far.
That it has been a seamless transition isn’t a shock. He’s a heady player who has experience playing with the bulk of the team’s core, but the fluidity with how he has gone about it is what stands out most for those closest to the team. And for that, Bogut attributes his health.
“I feel good,” Bogut said. “Probably more mentally as well. Just felt burnt out mentally with the grind of the NBA season for 13 seasons straight. It was good to just get home and get back to some normality, playing in the NBL in Australia once or twice a week.”
“And then obviously having a family now. Family kind of changes perspective of what should be stressful and what shouldn’t be and what’s important in life.”
Physically and mentally, Bogut is in as good of place as he’s ever been in his Warriors career. And on the court, this insurance policy has certainly paid off so far for the Dubs.
“That guy, he’s a wizard out on the floor,” Kerr said. “He sees and feels the game like Andre does, only at the center position. His voice is so prominent, when you’re down on the floor and our team is on defense, you can hear Bogues barking out commands, barking out signals, letting guys know where they need to be … he’s like a quarterback out there.”