The cameras and media surrounded Andrew Bogut in the cramped visitors locker following the end of Game 4 of the NBA Finals in Cleveland – a game that the Warriors won convincingly, 103-82, to level the series at 2 games a piece. The attention was was surprising given that Bogut played just two minutes and 46 seconds for a stat line of one rebound, one assist and three fouls.
Entering this Finals series the general consensus was that, of the two Australians on the respective rosters of the two Finals participants, Bogut would have the greater impact in helping his team achieve their ultimate goal. It hasn’t panned out that way, and now Bogut has been relegated to the bench (for the moment) and how much impact he will have from here on out remains a mystery.
The Australian, however, is taking his reduced role in stride and has no complaints – as long as the team keeps winning.
“I didn’t play well the last two games and we lost,” Bogut said post-game. “I knew there would be some sort of change or tweak. It worked out well, so, no gripes.”
During the Warriors’ 67-15 regular season, Bogut played in 67 games and averaged 23.6 minutes, 6.3 points and 8.1 rebounds. He’s played 574 games during his 10-year NBA career, and started all but 10 of them, so he could be forgiven for feeling slighted being given lesser minutes at such an important juncture of the season.
Golden State head coach Steve Kerr, understanding the need for a tactical move to help free up the team’s stagnant offense during the first three games, elected to start Andre Iguodala – a move that certainly improved the team’s spacing issues, and provided the Warriors with an ample defender to cover the rampant LeBron James.
There’s something bigger at stake here, and Bogut understands what’s in the best interests of the team.
“We’re not in a position to sit here and pout or other things,” Bogut said. “We’re professionals. David Lee is a former All-Star who gave up his role basically the whole season and didn’t gripe with it. So I have no excuse to gripe and not cheer my teammates. I can understand why coach is doing it, going smaller can open up the court a lot more for Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson). It worked a charm. I’m not bitter about it at all, we got the win and hopefully we get a ring doing it.”
Teammate Draymond Green said Bogut took his benching like a champ: “Bogut didn’t say a word about not starting. He played two minutes. Didn’t say a word. All he said is, ‘If we win, I don’t care (about not starting).’ And that’s what it’s about. And that’s what’s made this team successful, attitudes like that. It’s a group that’s tied together, working for each other, and that’s the type of stuff that helps us win.”
During the Warriors’ 67-15 regular season, Bogut played in 67 games and averaged 23.6 minutes, 6.3 points and 8.1 rebounds. Those are meaningful statistics that were crucial to the team’s regular season success, but given the team’s success with it’s current lineup, Bogut may not play heavy minutes the rest of the way. He says that, although he’s slightly frustrated at not being able to impact the game as he’s normally used to in extended playing time, whatever happens from here on out during these Finals, he’s content knowing that he has played his part in helping the team reach this position.
“It’s a little frustrating, but it’s a part of basketball,” Bogut said. “I feel like I impacted every playoff series that I’ve played in – this one’s a unique one ’cause they go small a lot. It’s a unique match-up where we feel more comfortable going with a small lineup. I still feel a part of this thing, but it’s going to be a limited role [for the Finals].”
Feature image via: AP Photo/Paul Sancya