I’ve now been to two Warriors games this season, and in both games Andrew Bogut has played.
What are the odds?
Yes, Andrew Bogut is back, and it’s time to share with you my long-promised deconstruction of the last and biggest myth on my list of current Warriors myths: The Andrew Bogut Myth.
Even if I don’t really feel like it.
The “He’s Back Now” Myth: He’s done his rehab. His ankle feels good. He’s ready to go. Andrew Bogut is back!
I’m not so sure. I’m sorry, but I have an uncomfortable suspicion that Bogut is back in the same way that Andris Biedrins has been back at the start of each of the last three seasons. Biedrins is always spry and energetic at the start of the season, after a nice long layoff, and the Joe Lacob PR machine is always ready with a story about Biedrins being re-energized and Happy, and ready to re-dedicate himself to getting back to where he was before Don Nelson Destroyed his Confidence. And yes, Big Things Are Expected From Him This Year.
And the Bay Area media are only too happy to jump on board with these deceptions, and everyone does a wonderful job pretending that Biedrins didn’t contract chronic osteitis pubis in 2009, and that his next crippling bout of inflammation and pain (or “groin strain”, as Lacob’s minions call it) isn’t right around the corner.
That kind of “back.”
Like Biedrins, Andrew Bogut has a chronic and painfully crippling condition. I warned you of the probability of this last summer, but it became a confirmed fact when Joe Lacob’s lie about Bogut’s microfracture surgery was recently exposed. Bogut’s condition is known as osteoarthritis (damaged cartilage in the joint, attended by chronic inflammation), and he has it in both the ankle he had surgery on last April, and the right elbow he had surgery on a couple of years ago.
Folks, osteoarthritis doesn’t go away. It never “heals”. There is no cure. Bogut’s symptoms may subside with treatment and rest, leaving him relatively free from pain and inflammation for a time, but it will never go away. Certainly not while he’s a professional basketball player. 270 pounds of grown man running and jumping on a hardwood floor is not the best treatment imaginable for damaged and fraying ankle cartilage.
That’s what 50 years of NBA history, and the recent examples of Greg Oden, Andrew Bynum and Yao Ming have taught us. Big men who develop damaged cartilage and osteoarthritis in their joints never fully get healthy again. Never fully, and never for long.
This harsh truth is no doubt what Charles Barkley had in mind when he said this about Bogut on Bay Area radio recently:
I loved him as a player, but I don’t think he can ever play again. I don’t think he can ever be close to the player he used to be. He doesn’t just have injuries. He has major injuries.… His injuries were so major that he’s never going to be able to get back to where he was. I hate that, because he seems like a great kid. But I don’t ever think he can get back to that All-Star level where he was in Milwaukee.
Andrew Bogut is back, yes. But he’s back on an ankle that swells and aches. During last night’s game against the Suns, Jim Barnett stated that he wouldn’t be surprised if Mark Jackson held Bogut out of the fourth quarter. He had a “sneaking suspicion.” He elaborated after the game, stating that he thought he saw Bogut limping slightly on the ankle in the first half. The Warriors coaching staff agrees: it was reported after the game that they see Bogut “favoring” the ankle.
I’ll add my own observations. Bogut is running up and down the court like a ballerina, on the balls of his feet. Avoiding the pounding of landing on his heels. Check it out. And in the Toronto game, I clearly saw him wince and limp after coming down from a block attempt.
So yes, Bogut is favoring that ankle. And unfortunately, it’s likely he always will. He’s got an ankle that swells and aches, that will always swell and ache. On some days it’s going to swell and ache more than others. And the more he plays on it, the more it will swell and ache. This was true of his osteoarthritic right elbow in 2010-11, and it’s even more likely to prove true of his ankle.
That’s why Charles Barkley and I fear that it is highly unlikely that Bogut will ever be able to keep himself on the basketball court for any sustained period of time, let alone play at something close to his former level.
The “80% of Bogut” Myth: If you’re a Warriors fan, you’ve heard this one a lot this season: “Even 80% of Bogut will help the Warriors.”
I think that’s another myth, one that has been repeatedly proven false by NBA history. Let me ask you this, was 80% of Shaquille O’Neal a winning basketball player? You know, that guy who played for Phoenix and Cleveland?
What about 80% of Bill Walton, when his foot was killing him on the Blazers and Clippers?
How about 80% of Ralph Sampson, when he was on the Warriors?
And what about 80% of Dwight Howard, the guy currently on the Lakers? Is he a winning basketball player?
Perhaps everyone is thinking about 80% of Arvydas Sabonis, who was a pretty good player. One could argue that the current version of Bogut resembles Sabonis quite a bit.
Or 80% of Tim Duncan, who’s also not bad.
But there’s a major difference between 80% of Sabonis and Duncan, and 80% of Bogut. Those guys simply got old. Andrew Bogut got osteoarthritis. Andrew Bogut got chronic inflammation and swelling.
80% of Andrew Bogut is 1% away from a return to the inactive list.
The Andrew Bogut Miracle: Am I skeptical of Bogut’s health, and the assumption that he can have a positive impact on the Warriors this season? You bet. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
Nor does it mean that I don’t want to see it happen. Quite the contrary, I would absolutely love to see it happen.
The healthy Andrew Bogut was not only a great basketball player, but my favorite kind of great basketball player. The kind of great player I enjoy watching most.
Genius-level basketball IQ. Multi-dimensional. Not all that athletic, but not reliant on athleticism. Unselfish. Great court vision. Great passer. Always one step ahead. Hard-nosed. Competitive. Committed to winning.
Come to think of it, there are quite a few other players like that already on this Warriors team. And wouldn’t it be great to see a fully functional Bogut on the court with Stephen Curry, David Lee and Klay Thompson?
Probably the highest IQ basketball team since the Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, Bill Bradley, Dave Debusschere, Willis Reed Knicks.
Possibly the best passing team in NBA history.
What couldn’t that team accomplish? Who wouldn’t want to watch that?
Maybe it can happen.
Mark Jackson recently stated that “This is a team I believe God has his hands all over.” (Ever wonder what would happen if every time Jackson opened his mouth to say “God”, the word “Allah” popped out? Would the Warriors media silently acquiesce in Jackson’s characterization of his team as Allah’s Warriors? Would Joe Lacob? But I digress.)
If God’s close personal friend Mark Jackson is right about God being a Warriors fan, and God really does have his hands all over Andrew Bogut (because He loves all his Warriors players equally), and Bogut keeps giving his ankle daily ice baths and keeps gobbling handfuls of anti-inflammatory pills (in case God missed something), then who knows?
Maybe sometime later this season, deep in the playoffs, I’ll be writing about the last and biggest miracle of this Warriors season.
The Andrew Bogut Miracle.