Andrew Bogut happy playing mentor role, keen on Tokyo Olympics

ByNick Metallinos ESPN logo
Thursday, December 14, 2017

Andrew Bogut didn't want to end his career on a broken leg.

The Australian center felt like he'd already endured too much in his career with injury to end his NBA story like that. After fracturing his left tibia one minute into his Cleveland Cavaliers debut, against Miami last season, Bogut was determined to get back to the league to play out the tail end of his career healthy.

Bogut rehabbed the leg all summer, and then in mid-September, he inked a one-year deal with the Lakers. Coming into a situation like the one in Los Angeles, where the team is filled with young and inexperienced players, has also seen Bogut grow into another role: a mentor.

"I knew there wasn't going to be a whole lot of minutes because I was the 15th guy signed to the roster," Bogut tells ESPN. "I've just been trying to mentor some of the younger guys. We've got a really young and inexperienced team that bring a lot of energy and talent, so just some direction is needed every now and then and being one of the elder guys, [I'm] just trying to help them in the locker room."

Bogut had received interest from contenders such as Boston and his former team Cleveland prior to signing with the Lakers, but his relationship with head coach Luke Walton - whom Bogut played under when Walton was an assistant with Golden State in 2015 - and the opportunity to pass on some of the things he's learned in his 12 NBA seasons to an exciting young core, lured him to the Lakers.

Bogut wants to teach his younger teammates about remaining positive even in the twilight of your career.

"There's games where I don't play and don't get a sniff on the court, but just being positive and kind of showing that leadership so that one day when they get benched, or when they don't play minutes, they don't sit there and bitch and complain," he says.

Those games that Bogut doesn't get to play have become more frequent this season.

Of the team's 26 games thus far, Bogut has been a DNP-CD in 10 of them. His minutes have decreased from a career average of 28.6, to just 7.7 minutes per game this season. It's a tough adjustment for a guy that was All-NBA Third Team in 2010, and Second Team All-Defensive as recently as 2015.

Part of the reason for Bogut's declining minutes have been health and age, but also the NBA's shift away from a traditional big man, to a more streamlined, less physical big who can stretch the floor at either the four or five position. Bogut says he first saw the shift occurring early in his tenure with the Warriors.

'It really started to go away from a traditional big, strong four man and five man," Bogut says. "It basically went to [being] the four man was a leaner, quicker, non-physical guy, and that's when it started to turn. A lot of teams wanted to create that spacing.

"Stretch fours and fives are the hot commodity now and you got to deal with it."

Despite the league's move toward perimeter oriented big men, the Lakers decided to pair Bogut up with another 'traditional' center in Brook Lopez - even though Lopez has been shooting more three-pointers than in the past. Bogut says there's never been any pressure on him from coaches to extend his game to the perimeter.

He also feels like there's still a role for traditional big men in the league, albeit in a limited capacity.

"It's kind of funny because that was my game in high-school and college - I shot a fair few threes. When I got to the league, it was more about being a strong, physical, defensive center that could rebound and score around the basket,' he says. "There's still a lot of games in the NBA where you need a physical presence, and you need someone to come in and hit guys and protect the basket. I think that role will always be there, I just don't think it will be a 48-minute role in the NBA.

"When the nitty-gritty comes, to get an easy basket, or to flatten out the defense, you have to have a post presence. Like I said, it's just not utilized 48 minutes anymore."

Bogut's goal for this season is play out the rest of the '17-18 campaign healthy, anything beyond that is a bonus, he says. Still, he can't help but get excited for another potential Olympic run with the national team, more so given the mouth-watering appeal of playing next to a player like Ben Simmons, who should be entering his prime when Tokyo rolls around.

"His I.Q. just really stand out, his I.Q. is something you can't teach, and when you mix an I.Q at that level with the athleticism and natural talent that he has, he's a force," Boguts says. "He's a very focused individual and I'm very excited to have him on the national team. You bring him into the mix with some of the guys that we have and we have a chance to do something special."

That something special Bogut mentions is a potential shot at the elusive first medal for the men's team at an Olympics. Bogut will be 36 by then, but even so, he still thinks he can bring some of his leadership - and possibly more - to, what will be, a stacked Boomers roster.

"It's a long, long way away for me - there's a lot to happen with qualifiers and what not, but being greedy and looking at that roster we'll have, the first time in history we could potentially stack an entire roster with NBA players bar maybe one or two guys ... it's sensational," Bogut said.

"The greed in me wants to be a part of that, even if it's a limited role, to go and be a part of that group. I still think I can contribute heavily for that team, I still enjoy playing for the national team."

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