Warriors injured center Andrew Bogut said he had a moment on the bus ride from Chicago to Milwaukee. Something about the sign the Welcome to Wisconsin sign that made him a bit sad.
“It brought back a lot of memories,” said Bogut, who spent eight years in Milwaukee before being traded to the Warriors in March. “You guys know that I didn’t like the cold, but there was something about driving in that was nostalgic. This is kind of where I turned into a man, grew from a boy into a man. It will always have a special place in my heart.”
But for Bogut, his return to Milwaukee isn’t just about his “up and down” years with the Bucks. It’s also a reminder of what he has yet to do for the Warriors.
Guard Monta Ellis, the other star in the trade that landed Bogut with Golden State, has the Bucks on the way to the playoffs. Bogut’s team is also on the playoffs, but he’s pretty much had nothing to do with it.
It’s been nearly two months since Bogut talked with the media, and you can still sense the frustration from him.
“I mean, it’s been a long road for me,” he said. “It is definitely taking a lot longer than we expected. I tried to give it a go at the start of the season and it blew up. I lost my mobility and flexibility back in November, and I decided it was smart to try and be ready for the long haul, rather than play in five-game increments and then have to take time off. It’s frustrating. Nobody wants to be hurt. I don’t want to be hurt. At the same time, I’ve got no choice but to go through this process, do the right things and then come back strong.”
You know it’s killing him because Milwaukee gave up on him because of his injury history. And, nine months after ankle surgery, he’s still out, proving the Bucks right to move on.
Both Ellis and Udoh have played more than 60 games for the Bucks, currently the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. Bogut has given the Warriors four games, 73 minutes.
Golden State has had to make due with a rookie starting at center, backed up by a player who’d been on the decline for years. The Warriors have done fine without him, which eases the sting. But several games have made it clear how badly the Warriors need Bogut to be healthy and thriving.
But when is that?
Whispers from Golden State put his return after the All-Star break. He’s been progressing slowly, aided by the Warriors’ no-pressure rehab plan. But you can hear the agitation still exists.
“I’m injury prone,” Bogut said. “I’m injury prone (in the sense) that I’ve had a lot of gruesome injuries that I can’t control. But I’ve never had a soft-tissue injury due to a lack of conditioning or fitness. There have just been two unfortunate events that have taken years off of my career. It’s just one of those things I’ve got to deal with.”
Warriors coach Mark Jackson said the best thing his team can do is show Bogut support. But even he expresses excitement over the prospects of having Bogut in the lineup.
Certainly, down the stretch, the Warriors will need Bogut. They will need his size, his defensive prowess, his passing and leadership. Getting him on the court is Step 1. Finding out what he’s got left and how he can help is another issue.
“I see exactly where I fit on this team,” Bogut said. “We have a lot of scorers. The pressure won’t be on me to score, like it was in Milwaukee. I think my passing ability is very good, and I think it’s going to really help this team. Then, rebounding and defense. My scoring is going to come and go, but we have so many scorers on this team. I’m excited to get out there and help us out, but I definitely see where I fit in on this team.”