Warriors’ Oft-Damaged Andrew Bogut Says Avoiding Injury Is “To Be A Puss”

In Andrew Bogut‘s last season in Milwaukee (2012-13), he only appeared in 12 games. In his first season in Golden State, he played in 32 games after offseason microfracture surgery. Last season, he totaled only 67 games with a shoulder injury and was kept him out of Golden State’s final regular-season games and their seven-game first-round series against the Clippers with a fractured rib. The Aussie center recently told Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle his body “feels great” before offering a unique perspective on staying healthy.

The nine-year vet started training again in mid-June after his rib finally healed. He told Simmons at the San Francisco Chronicle, he’s feeling good, but that his history of injuries is the result of the way he competes — particularly on the defensive end:

“My body feels great. All of my injuries have been of the high-impact variety. The only thing I can do to change that is to be a puss and avoid contact at all costs. Then, it’s the other side of the ball when people say I’m a puss. I’ll take the good with the bad. I’ll still take charges and go for blocked shots. Every now and then, I’ll get a knock.”

To wit, Simmons preceded the above quote in his piece by describing a charge Bogut took against Marreese Speights during a pick-up game at their Oakland practice facility. While the charge is a bit of a taboo in a summer game, it shows that Bogut’s ferocity on the defensive end can’t be toned down even during informal games against teammates.

That hard-nosed style is embedded within Bogut’s genetic makeup, and it’s that same willingness to sacrifice his body that made him such a big part of Golden State’s top-5 defense last season. The Warriors gave up only 99.9 points per 100 possessions last season, with only Chicago and Indiana sporting a better defensive rating. When Bogut was on the court, that number dropped to 98.8, when he was off the court, it was at 100.8.

While those two points per 100 possessions don’t mean much — OKC gave up 101.0 points per 100 possessions, good for No. 5 in the NBA last season — his presence in the paint gave perimeter players like Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala a peace of mind if they wanted to take small gambles going for a steal or going over a pick-and-roll knowing they had a security blanket behind them.

New coach Steve Kerr, however, is hoping to implement Bogut more on the offensive end of the ball. Kerr flew out to Australia to spent three days with Bogut and his girlfriend this offseason to show him some offensive sets he envisions for the big Aussie next season.

While it’s nice Bogut is getting a chance on the offensive end, it’s his presence in the paint the Dubs will need the most in Kerr’s inaugural season as coach. After popular head coach Mark Jackson was terminated a few days into the summer, the only way the Dubs will have any chance to become a real title contender is if Bogut can find a way to stay on the court.

It’s a fine line between playing hard and playing recklessly with your body, an imaginary demarcation critics point to as the reason Bogut’s upside isn’t worth the risk. Except, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe pointed out when assessing Bogut’s worth to the Warriors before last season started, and after he’d appeared in only 44 games over the two previous seasons, that belief is a subjective falsehood fraught with big holes in the logic. Lowe mentions how people use the phrase “injury-prone” when describing Bogut, but they’re not aware of how his two major injuries were outliers and chance accidents and any brittleness is shared by every other NBA big man:

Bogut is correct that his two career-altering injuries have been catastrophic falls that broke separate parts of his body — his right elbow and his left ankle — and not the recurrence of a single debilitating issue. Fans and experts throw around the phrase “injury-prone” with far too much certainty, without researching the nature of a player’s particular injuries or even bothering to ask whether such a thing as “injury-prone” exists. It probably does. It seems clear that large people are at higher risk for leg injuries. And genetic research has uncovered evidence that specific genetic mutations might make bones a bit more brittle or limit the amount of cushioning collagen some people produce — hard-to-detect quirks that might make them more vulnerable to knee and Achilles injuries, according to David Epstein’s wonderful new book, The Sports Gene.

Bogut has suffered a bunch of crazy injuries. Is he at risk for more? Is he injury-prone? What we don’t know outweighs what we know, by a lot.

The Dubs gave Bogut a three-year, $36 million extension that summer before he appeared in 67 games this past season. Bogut is a rim-protector, and one of the best in the league. Opponent’s connected on only 45 percent of their field goal attempts at the rim against Bogut, per NBA.com’s advanced player-tracking cameras, with only Roy Hibbert, Robin Lopez and Serge Ibaka holding opponent’s to a lower percentage (minimum six attempts per game and 60 games played).

Aside from the numbers, Andrew Bogut is not a “puss,” but that might mean he sits out a couple games next season to recover from the aches and pains that come with that sort of Aussie grind. If you’re a Dubs fan, that’s part of the Bogut package, and it’s unfair to ask him to change now.

What do you think?

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