Part I: Before and after the fall

Bogut reviews highs, lows of best year as pro

By Truman Reed

Andrew Bogut
"I think as much as it's about me being a leader it's about getting the right pieces involved, getting team-orientated guys that aren't selfish and putting together a team on the floor that plays for each other."
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images

Andrew Bogut's 2009-10 season, in several respects, was everything he had been striving so hard for since entering the National Basketball Association as its No. 1 overall draft choice in 2005.

First and foremost, Bogut's team, the Milwaukee Bucks, enjoyed their most successful season in Bogut's five years in the league, going 46-36 and reaching the NBA Playoffs for the first time since Bogut's rookie campaign.

Individually, Bogut averaged career highs of 15.9 points and 2.5 blocks per game, along with a team-leading 10.2 rebounds per outing. His 175 blocks, which ranked second in the NBA, exceeded his totals from three other seasons combined and were the most by a Bucks player since 1982-83, when Alton Lister swatted 177.

Finally, Bogut was selected to the 2009-10 All-NBA Third Team, becoming the first Australian native to earn all-NBA recognition and earning the 11th-most votes in the league.

About the only thing missing from Bogut's breakout season was a happy ending.

The 7-foot, 260-pound center sustained a dislocated right elbow, a broken right hand and a right wrist sprain after crashing to the court following a breakaway dunk during the team's April 3 game against the Phoenix Suns at the Bradley Center.

Two days later, Bogut underwent surgery to repair his broken hand. His recovery time was estimated at six weeks, so he was ruled out for the regular season and the playoffs.

Bogut was certainly there supporting his teammates as they battled the Atlanta Hawks through a seven-game, opening-round playoff series, but he admitted once it was over that sitting and watching wasn't easy.

"It was tough, obviously," Bogut said. "Being in a situation like this is never easy. But we fought and we fought. Looking at ESPN analysts, preseason they picked us to finish last. So we did a good job of kind of nipping that in the bud.

"This playoff series, they gave us an eight-percent chance of winning and I think we scared the daylights out of Atlanta in that series. Would I like to have beaten them? Obviously. It's a frustrating time. I'm looking forward to getting home, visiting my family and stuff and just clearing my head a bit and starting rehab."

At some point this summer, hopefully Bogut took the time to look back on the 2009-10 Bucks campaign and all that he helped them accomplish. Besides playing the center position, he was certainly in the middle of the team's vast improvement.

On May 10, the announcement was made that Bogut would miss the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey while continuing his rehabilitation.

One Australian media outlet called the development "a massive blow to the Australian men's basketball side." Within the same article Australian National Team coach Brett Brown was quoted as follows: "Andrew's injury is obviously a significant blow to the Boomers' World Championship preparation."

"It's good to know, but I think it's still a team game," Bogut said. "Obviously, I'm one of the centerpieces and signed a pretty decent deal here. I do want to be in Milwaukee. I like the city, I like the fans and the people. I think as much as it's about me being a leader it's about getting the right pieces involved, getting team-orientated guys that aren't selfish and putting together a team on the floor that plays for each other.

"I think generally, this year, if you looked at our roster preseason, no one picked us to do anything. The reason why we had a successful season is because we had guys in the locker room that genuinely got along with each other. Our flights were pretty good. You didn't have guys kind of in a box and not talking to other people and all that type of stuff that sometimes goes on with a team, which I've witnessed in the last couple of years before these last two. I think we've got good guys and we'll keep signing good guys."

Bogut recruited some good guys - and gals - on his own to form Squad 6, a cast of rowdy fans that brought a buzz back to the Bradley Center for the first time in years. He bought 100 tickets face-valued at $96 for every game, held auditions and distributed the tickets to the craziest, loudest fans who turned out.

He was asked if he ever imagined the idea would take off and create the excitement that it did.

"No," he said. "It got better and better. Obviously there was a tough time there where we started losing games and they could have easily just jumped ship and they didn't, which is why I really respected most of the guys in that group.

"A couple of fans in the arena might not have been happy with the noise, which is crazy. For the most part, they were awesome. Like I said, before the game I went out there to talk with the fans and they were the reason we had a home-court advantage. It wasn't just the way we played.

"They brought an atmosphere to the arena that we haven't had in the last four or five years. It's going to be a continued tradition. I'm doing it again next year and hopefully we can get a couple more guys on board and hopefully get 150 seats instead of 100."

Bogut was pleased to see Squad 6's enthusiasm rub off on the surrounding fans that turned out for the team's home playoff games.

"Our fans have been great," he said. "We sold that game (Game 6) out I think an hour or two within winning Game 5. It just goes to show that our fans are behind us.

"Even though we didn't win the first-round series, we pushed them to the end. Fans were very appreciative because they knew that we had injury problems with myself and we had a team that wasn't supposed to do anything so they really enjoyed it. It was good to see."

Bogut realizes that, because of the way his team defied the skeptics last season, expectations will be considerably higher for the Bucks in 2010-11, and he and the Bucks have some high objectives of their own. Visit again soon for Part II of this series.

Part II