HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’re still trying to decide how much we like Andrew Bogut‘s new handlebar beard look, but there are some things about the Milwaukee Bucks’ big man that cannot be disputed.
1) Bogut’s absence from the postseason last year (due to that nasty fall and broken arm that you will never see video of in this space) helped the Hawks prolong their stay at least four more games. It would have been interesting to see a healthy Bogut go head-to-head with Dwight Howard in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
2) As Bogut goes this season, so goes the Bucks. Even with his mercurial rookie season in the books, Brandon Jennings should not have the burden of being the Bucks’ thermometer this season. That may be his role in the future … a few years down the road … but not right now.
3) Outside of Derrick Rose in Chicago, no one player will have a greater impact on which team wins the totally wide open Central Division. Previously the domain of the Cleveland Cavaliers (during the end of the LeBron James era) and the Detroit Pistons (before LBJ), the Central is a blank canvass these days due to all the attrition that’s gone on the past year or so.
Bogut’s absence from game action throughout the preseason was worrisome to some who thought there might be lingering issues from that nasty fall that cost him the playoffs. But my main man David Aldridge cleared that up in this week’s Morning Tip:
Milwaukee’s star center has been taking part in fullcourt practices and scrimmages for a month, but hadn’t played in a preseason game until Sunday. He made his debut against the Timberwolves in Sioux Falls, S.D., scoring 11 points and grabbing five rebounds in about 14 minutes of work.
Scott Skiles would like to limit Bogut’s minutes during the preseason, but there will be no limits on Bogut’s minutes when the games start for real.
“In my opinion, he’s no more likely to get hurt than anyone else on our team,” Skiles said last week. “He did have, obviously, the worst fall I’ve ever seen in a basketball game. You knew the very second he went down, he was done, he was out, there was no way around that. I’m not trying to minimize it. But he’s been very diligent this summer, with his rehabs. He played the whole month of September. When we scrimmaged he played five on five, basically every day. He took a little bit of a hit on the hand and we just want to err on the side of being really cautious.”
Skiles doesn’t think Bogut is injury-prone, but he also knows that the Bucks won’t go far in the playoffs without him. Bogut will have to play with pain throughout the season, but the Bucks trust he’ll be honest with them when he hurts too much to play on a given night.
“Look, both of the last two years, last year was a freak accident, and the year before, he had the back issue, but he’s missed critical moments for us in both of the last two years,” Skiles said. “We want him, we need him to play for us, hopefully, in every game. That would be something that would be huge for us. So I’ll watch him. But I’ve seen with my own eyes him do so much already. If this was a regular-season game tonight and you came up to me beforehand and said, ‘Are you going to play him 38 minutes tonight?,’ I would say, ‘I might.’ “
If the Bucks are to challenge Chicago for that top spot in the division, as we have been forecasting since July, they’re going to need Bogut as close to peak condition as possible.
His toughness isn’t an issue. The amount of time he’s had to rehab and get back up to his normal speed, however, is enough to make you worry.
But we’re also factoring in that chip Bogut will have on his shoulder all season, courtesy of missing out on the “Fear The Deer” playoff run. We saw the look on his face when he was forced to watch his teammates try to pull off the upset against Atlanta without him.
That’s motivation few of is peers can relate to, motivation that will come in handy on those days when he’s feeling a little pain and motivation we are sure will take Bogut and the Bucks a long way this season.