A sprained wrist, dislocated elbow, and broken hand -- all at once? That sounds like it hurts. And it looked like it hurt even more than it sounds like it hurts. And it just hurt. For us, in many ways. For Andrew, in every way. The sheer physical pain, the absurd timing, and now the helplessness. That's the worst.
Make no mistake, there is no simple closure here; this injury will frame the rest of the regular season and postseason for the Bucks. But the team must move on just like it has so well throughout the first five months of this improbable season.
And the best thing about this season is that every player has just fit in. No matter the trades, lineup shuffling, or injuries, the five players on the court almost always seem to click. Everyone fits in (almost everyone). But Bogut didn't merely just fit in. Everyone else fit into what Bogut was doing, following his offensive and defensive lead.
Bogut's tumble to the floor was a most cruel way to end his year on one hand, but it happened on his home court, with his fans adoring, with Squad Six cheering, with a lead against an elite team on a 10-game win streak, having personally made 6-7 from the field to give his team that lead. And that final basket, the result of a picture-perfect pass, soft catch, and authoritative slam dunk.
There is an interesting dichotomy here; Bogut went out in such a ghastly way, but he also went out on an incredibly high note, leaving everyone wanting more.
He certainly went out with a bang. Unfortunately the thud was not only figurative, but all too literal.
And on the verge of the Bucks getting to the playoffs and national attention unseen and unheard in years, the media coverage burst arrived a little too soon...
Nobody moved side to side like Bogut this season. Dwight Howard(notes) came close, while still coming through with a heap of blocks and boards, but no player covered and showed and did all the little things defensively they don't really have stats for. If you drove on the Bucks this season, Bogut was there, changing your shot. Stopping your shot. Aiding you in the reconsideration of what you just attempted.
And it was so fun to watch. We've got a league full of big men that want to be Allen Iverson(notes) and while Bogut grew up wanting to be Toni Kukoc (who didn't?). The man played big. Played huge this season. Even missed a ton of his free throws, just to keep the stereotype going.
21.3 - Andrew Bogut's APER.
He looks great in PER (20.5) but after factoring in his ability to draw a charge, he shines even more. His previous high came in 2007-08 when he posted a 17.8 APER for the 25-win Milwaukee Bucks. Let's welcome him to the Top 20.
The saddest part about this is that there are still tons of NBA fans who don't understand Bogut's impact on the game. He plays in Milwaukee, hardly a major media market, and is overshadowed by his flashy rookie teammate Brandon Jennings. This isn't a bad thing, mind you, but it's a fact. Andrew Bogut just hasn't received anything close to the credit he deserves for leading the Bucks to this point.
The only way those people would have understood is by watching Bogut and the Bucks push either the Celtics or the Hawks in a seven-game series in the playoffs. Now, however, that can't happen, and Bogut will once again enter next season as arguably the league's most underappreciated player. For a number one overall pick that had previously been branded a disappointment, it's sad that a terrible injury will spoil his coming out party.
And naturally, that will put pressure on the remaining members of the Bucks front court. Kurt Thomas and Ersan Ilyasova should see the most significant increases in minutes, with Thomas likely stepping in as the new starting center and Ilyasova probably seeing some more time at the five in small ball lineups. But I’m not convinced either of them will have to take anything more unto themselves with Bogut out. Milwaukee isn’t all of a sudden going to slide either Thomas or Ilyasova into Bogut’s spot on the offense and dump the ball into them in the post. It’s just not their game. I expect each to be more productive, especially Ilyasova and I’ll get to that in a minute, but I don’t expect a great deal more usage out of them.
But, as odd as this appears, I do expect more out of Carlos Delfino.
This year, the Bucks aren’t just making the playoffs; they’re putting teams on notice that if you face them in the first round you’re going to be in for a rude awakening. The Bucks are scrappy but it’s a different kind of scrappy. In the past, we’ve had scrappy teams that "nobody wanted to face." They were teams who most likely put up a lot of points or had huge glaring weaknesses that far superior teams would be able to exploit in a seven-game series. The Wolves teams from the late 90s and early 00s were scrappy but you didn’t truly fear them. Tracy McGrady’s Orlando teams were scrappy but you knew they weren’t pulling off the massive upset against better teams. But this Bucks teams is completely different.
Or at least it was until last night when Andrew Bogut seemingly slipped off the rim and fell on his right arm. The diagnosis is a dislocated elbow, a broken hand and a sprained wrist. If it was just one of those injuries, the tough Australian anchor to the Bucks defense would wrap it up and go be the destructive defensive force he’s been all season. He’d be the guy that makes you wonder if Dwight Howard is hands down the best defensive player of the year.
The 25-year-old averaged career highs in points (15.9) and blocked shots (2.5, ranking second in the league) while adding 10.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. His 175 blocked shots were the most by a Bucks player since Alton Lister had 177 during the 1982-'83 season.
Bucks coach Scott Skiles will have to tinker with his lineup and rely more heavily on veteran center Kurt Thomas and 22-year-old power forward Ersan Ilyasova, who has played so well off the bench.
Backup centers Dan Gadzuric and Primoz Brezec, both of whom have been used sparingly, could play more important roles.
When Bogut missed a game on March 26 against Miami due to a mid-back strain, Gadzuric played 20 minutes and had four points and five rebounds in the Bucks' 87-74 loss to the Heat.
On defense, it’s hard to overstate Bogut’s impact. Milwaukee is third in defensive efficiency and there’s no one more responsible than him. Dwyer called him a B+ Dwight Howard and Dwyer is pretty much right about everything all the time. Allow me to throw some stats at you: Andrew ranks 2nd in the league in blocks and 4th in charges taken. That’s INSANE – most prolific shot-blockers try to block almost everything that comes their way and most prolific charge-takers learn the skill to compensate for a lack of shot-blocking ability. Doing both as well as Bogut does makes you a defensive master. Last week, John Schuhmann rated him the 2nd-best defensive center in the league and pointed out that, at the time of writing, the Bucks were was a full six points per 100 possessions better on defense with him on the floor. If you watch the games, it’s easy to see why. There are few big men who are able to cover as much ground as he does. His long arms and his quick feet enable him to protect the basket at a very high level and guard multiple defenders at once. He shows on screens, he guards the big guys that drift to the perimeter, and he plays terrific, tough post defense. You can’t ask for more from your center.
To account for the Ilyasova move, he will switch SF Carlos Delfino into a sort of SF/PF role similar to the role Andres Nocioni played for him with the Chicago Bulls. Then he will turn to veteran swingman Jerry Stackhouse to mop the minutes at SF that Delfino will no longer be able to fill.
I don’t know how Delfino will do at power forwerd, and Stackhouse has been up and down at small forward. This is not a move that creates strength, but its all Skiles can do.
I feel for Bucks fans everywhere, who will have to watch their team limp into the postseason without their dominant big man. I’m upset for basketball fans all over Australia who have been united this past six months watching Bogut climb to these heights. No longer are NBA conversations with my mates simply about Lebron and Kobe and the title-contending teams. Bogut has made all Aussies who love this game damn proud, and given us bigger reasons to follow the NBA than Lebron and Kobe ever could. As the chief editor of this blog I can tell you that as the season rolled on, thousands more visitors were tuning in to read about Bogut and the Bucks charge towards the playoffs. Given the misery I’m enduring as a Pistons fan this season, the rise of Bogut has been the single biggest highlight for me. 2009-2010 will be forever stamped in history as the season an Aussie was first seriously part of NBA All-Star discussions, and likely the first season an Aussie is named to an All-NBA Team. It has been historic in more ways than one.
The most important development of the weekend, however, occurred in Milwaukee, where Amar'e Stoudemire pushed Andrew Bogut in the air on a dunk, contributing to a graphic fall that ends the Bucks realistic chances of getting out of a first-round series. Stoudemire only pushes the small of Bogut's back slightly, but rule No. 1 of friendly, non-playoff basketball is that you don't touch a player in the air. It wasn't right, but certainly not egregious enough to merit outrage.
"It was just a freak accident," Rivers said. "It was horrific. It was awful to watch. But it happens."
Ray Allen, a former Buck who had been preparing for possibly facing his former team in the playoffs, said, "This is a tough time of the year because they are making playoff plans, selling playoff tickets and they’re right there in the hunt. I think every coach dreads that."
Rivers was adamant -- and I agree -- that Bogut was not the victim of a dirty play. Running out for a court-length pass and breakaway dunk Saturday night against the Suns, Bogut dunked ahead of Amar'e Stoudemire and tried to hang on the rim in an effort to protect himself and Stoudemire.
"If he could've hung onto the rim long enough to get his feet back, he wouldn't have been injured," LeBron James said. "Just a freak accident."