HANG TIME WEST – They were always destined to have a unique relationship: The Warriors acquired Andrew Bogut in March 2012, knowing he had a serious ankle injury that could sideline him the rest of that season, and understood he was a lynchpin piece even as David Lee became an All-Star and Stephen Curry surged toward stardom. They reached the 2013 West semifinals in part specifically thanks to Bogut playing hurt. Owner Joe Lacob knows one of the reasons he was booed at the completely unrelated Chris Mullin jersey retirement, wrong then and ridiculous now, was because popular Monta Ellis was traded for Bogut’s medical charts.
So, of course, the Bogut extension completed Friday was going to be different. It happened earlier than most veteran contracts (he could have waited until free agency next July 1 and signed for a lot more money). It happened with Bogut accepting incentive clauses in acknowledgement of his injury history (a concession he would not have had to make in the summer with a healthy 2013-14), and it happened without much rancor. (The negotiations took barely more than a week, with a short break as the team went to China for exhibition games, and the sides were always in the same ballpark in dollars and framework.)
And it happened because of Curry.
Bogut was an obvious fit on and off the court, in personality and play. He could have such a positive impact, even at less than 100 percent while recovering from ankle and back problems, that the Nuggets were caught off guard by the extent of his contributions in the first round last season, and he brought the perfect SOB attitude to an organization that wanted to shed its fun-bunch image for grit. The health issue was the only question.
Except that Golden State had stared down a similar dilemma almost exactly a year earlier and been paid back with a jackpot. Curry’s history with ankle issues was an obvious concern, but management went with its guts and the medical reports that said the series of sprains and surgeries were in the past and believed the point guard, then beginning his third season, was turning into something special.
Curry got four years and $44 million, without incentive clauses. When he turned into a shooting star, literally and figuratively, the Warriors got a bargain. They kept the player and saved many millions from what it would have taken to match the offer sheet Curry would have gotten as a restricted free agent after 2012-13.
Flash forward to 2013, the Bogut negotiations, the health factor, and the new gut call.
“He’s the type of player you want to bet on,” general manager Bob Myers said at the press conference announcing the Bogut extension. “I said the same thing about Curry last year. You have to take risks in this business from the front-office perspective. You’re never entirely sure how they’re going to work out. But for us, he’s a character guy, he’s a leader on the team, he’s about winning, he’s a competitor. And those are the types of guys you want to bet on. I feel like him as the starting center for our franchise puts us in a good position. I grew up watching this team, when I was 7, 8 years old, and I barely remember Joe Barry Carroll. I’ve never seen a center play for this organization besides Andrew Bogut. That tells you how hard they are (to acquire). No offense to Tom Tolbert, who was a Warriors 6-8 center, but, really, it shows you how hard it is to get one of these guys and to keep one of these guys. To risk losing him (Bogut) to free agency was not something we were willing to do.”
The financial middle ground was ultimately three years and $36 million guaranteed, kicking in next season, with descending annual payments that will make it easier to manage extensions that at the current rate will be coming to Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. Bogut could earn another $5.5 million by reaching certain incentives, including making the All-Star team, All-NBA, All-Defense or Defensive Player of the Year.
Bogut got his double goal of staying in Golden State and financial security now, and the Warriors got to lock up their starting center and defensive presence with some safety nets at less than he would have commanded as a free agent in July 2014 with a healthy season. The only real concern is the reality that the members of the media who regularly cover the league and vote on All-NBA and Defensive Player of the League now have a voice in how much Bogut will make. It is such an obvious conflict, yet the balloting continues to be allowed by most news outlets.