In March of last year, during a ceremony honoring former Warrior Chris Mullin, team owner Joe Lacob was booed loudly by a crowd dissatisfied with the trade that sent fan-favorite Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut, who at the time was sidelined with an injury that kept him out of the remainder of that season.
Flash forward to Thursday night at Oracle Arena, when Bogut’s 14 points, 21 rebounds and four blocks helped the upstart Warriors win their first-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets 4-2, and it’s safe to say the 19,596 in attendance had a new appreciation for the 7-foot Australian.
Bogut was key in Game 4, which put the Warriors firmly in control of the series with a 3-1 lead, and in the decisive Game 6. Moving forward, he will be just as important if Golden State is to pull off an even bigger upset in the matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, who have had the Warriors’ number over the past decade and a half.
The road here has been as tough for Bogut as it has been for Warriors fans — and perhaps even players — who expected a lot out of him. “I’ve had an absolute nightmare of 6-to-9 months,” Bogut said. “There was no light at the end of the tunnel, it was pitch black for months. I questioned a lot of things personally, and mentally I was in a pretty bad place for a couple months.”
He acknowledged his teammates were probably doubting his value during the early part of the season when he was unable to play in back-to-back games because his ankle couldn’t handle it, and when he was stuck at home while the team went on the road.
Ultimately, however, he is peaking at the right time and showing exactly why Lacob, general manager Bob Myers and coach Mark Jackson made the move last season.
Jackson credits a unique sense of unity in the locker room for helping get Bogut back on the floor at top form, even while admitting he didn’t expect the numbers the big man put up against Denver.
“It’s something when you’re tied together,” Jackson said. “It’s easy to let go of the rope when it’s just ‘me.’ But when you’re in a room of guys that’s your brothers, that care, that love you, that’s committed, that have a lot invested, it’s tougher to let go of the rope. And to Bogut’s credit, even though he was frustrated at times, he hung in there and he battled and he played huge for us.”
Bogut’s defense will be vital against Spurs forward-center Tim Duncan, who has averaged 22.7 points in three games against the Warriors this season and shows no signs of slowing down at age 37.