Andrew Bogut close to finalizing deal with NBL's Sydney Kings

If all goes according to plan, Patty Mills and Andrew Bogut could be facing off in the NBL's tip-off this weekend in Melbource, Australia.

Andrew Bogut is probably going to sign with the Kings.

Whoa, settle down people. I obviously meant the Sydney Kings--didn't you read the post title, knuckleheads? Is this lame "joke" going anywhere? Ok, let's start over.

Andrew Bogut has gotten a fair amount of press over his pursuit of a deal with Australia's National Basketball League, with a number of teams pursuing him in what would amount to a "coup" for the lucky club. The sticking point has been, for some time, insurance questions, the same issue keeping a whole bunch of NBA players from fleeing overseas. The word from Bogut's agent Bruce Kaider, though, suggests that an insurance deal is close to done:

We have got our insurance policy which we have got our legal team here and in the US looking at. It's a bit of a backwards and forwards with FIBA on the insurance policy.

The policy is estimated to cost about $500,000, and yes, that's a lot. In fact, the team that lands Bogut is going to end up spending about 15 times more money insuring Bogut than paying him directly, as Andrew plans to play for the NBL minimum $32,000 salary. From the fan perspective, that is just awesome. Clearly this is a move motivated by Andrew's heart rather than his wallet, borne out of his desire to play and to play in his homeland.

With the insurance issue apparently cleared up, the attention turns to which team Bogut will suit up for, and when. As of today, the Sydney Kings appear the favorites. The Gold Coast Blaze, another team mentioned in the race, made it official that he would play elsewhere. Landing Bogut would be a huge boost for the Kings as they prepare to open their season against the Melbourne Tigers, who signed fellow Australian-born NBA'er Patty Mills about a month ago. The Mills signing was considered one of the most high-profile moves in recent NBL history, but we'll go out on a limb and say that Bogut's arrival is likely to eclipse anything else happening in the Australian basketball community anytime soon.

As with all the oversea deals signed by NBA players who are still under contract, Bogut will be required to return to Milwaukee immediately upon resolution of the lockout.

The biggest question remaining is exactly when Bogut will make his debut, but according to recent reports, it sounds likely that he'll be on the court for the Kings' opener this coming weekend, with a finalization of the insurance situation expected today. While the deal remained unsettled, Bogut had stated that his personal deadline was this coming Wednesday. Anything beyond that and he worried about disrupting the team's gameplan by stepping in with so little time to prepare.

Talk of Bogut's health has, thankfully, been equally optimistic over the last month. He's been shooting regularly and undergoing routine weight and fitness training, and while he still experiences soreness after long workouts, there's no question he's miles (er, excuse me, kilometers) ahead of where he was to start last season. That's not going to stop Melbourne from testing him for weaknesses, though. Tigers coach Trevor Gleeson, on facing Bogut and his 213 centimeter, 118 kilogram frame:

We will have something ready for him. We haven't seen a size of that presence in the NBL ever before so there is going to be a lot of unknown. He is so big and strong.

We will test out everything. We will test out his fitness, we will test out everything around that [elbow].

Mr. Gleeson, I think I speak for everyone when I say YOU STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM HIS ELBOW. That is just super uncool, man.

While such a risk of reinjury exists in a game setting, I think we can all agree that seeing Bogut back on a basketball court in a competitive atmosphere is a pretty cool prospect. Should the lockout drag on and delay the start of the season, Bogut's participation in an organized basketball league is only going to help him get into true "basketball shape," even if NBL teams typically play only once a week. 

More than anything, though, this is great news for the NBL and Australian basketball fans (well, at least Sydney Kings fans!). From what I understand, mostly through the comments of our Aussie commenters, basketball isn't exceedingly popular in Australia, so the popularity boost from a true NBA star (no offense to Patty Mills) will be welcome.

We are all doubtlessly awaiting the day that our favorite 213 centimeter center (say it five times fast) takes the floor in Milwaukee once again, but until that day comes, we'll turn our eyes toward Australia. And that means regular reports from you locals. Our fandom is in your hands, fellas.

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