Part II: Before and after the fall
Bogut looks onward, upward at individual, team progress
By Truman Reed
"We think we're capable of maybe even getting a home-court advantage in the next couple of years."
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images
Andrew Bogut's fifth season in the National Basketball Association was, in a number of ways, dramatically different from his previous four.
His sixth NBA campaign won't begin for another couple of months, but it already promises to be different than the first five.
For the first time in his pro career, Bogut is beginning a season with all-NBA accolades on his resume. He made the all-league third team in 2009-10 after averaging career bests of 15.9 points and 2.5 blocks, to go with a team-high 10.2 rebounds a night.
And for the first time since Bogut arrived in Milwaukee, the Bucks are coming off a winning season, having gone 46-36. They also made the playoffs for the first time since Bogut's rookie season and pushed Atlanta to seven games before bowing out.
Bogut was unable to help the Bucks cause during the playoff stint, having suffered a dislocated right elbow, a broken right hand and a right wrist sprain when he crashed to the court after a breakaway dunk during the team's April 3 game against the Phoenix Suns at the Bradley Center.
As he watched from the sideline, Bogut was impressed with the heart and resilience his teammates without him in the lineup, but also shared their frustration and disappointment when they didn't win the playoff series after taking a 3-2 lead.
"I definitely enjoyed watching the guys have the success that they had," he said. " But did I enjoy it? I played in almost 75 games this year pretty much injury free, barring a freak thing. To have that taken away from me at the end of the season is pretty frustrating.
"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."
Bogut realizes that the Bucks can't rest on their laurels.
"You never want to be satisfied with being eliminated in the playoffs, especially in a series where we were up 3-2 and had a chance to win at home and obviously didn't play too well," he said. "Just speaking to some of the guys and coaches and the GM, I think we don't want that to be a habit. We want to build on this year.
"We think we're capable of maybe even getting a home-court advantage in the next couple of years. Whether it's next year or the year after, we think we're building toward that. Our next goal would be that, so hopefully we make the playoffs next year and keep building on it."
Bucks management was active during the summer trying to direct the team toward that objective, signing free agents John Salmons, Drew Gooden, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Keyon Dooling and Earl Boykins, trading for Corey Maggette and Jon Brockman and adding Larry Sanders, Tiny Gallon and Darington Hobson via the draft.
Bogut looks forward to the prospect of building upon the 2009-10 season, both individually and with his teammates.
"I'm very excited," he said. "There are other areas of my game to be worked on it. Obviously the injury is going to hinder me a little bit as far as I want to work on my jumper -- I've been saying that every year, but I want to be consistent with that 15-foot jumper `cause I think it'll open up the game.
"I'm a little hindered with this cast on. I'm very excited to get back into it as quickly as ever and get to that next step next year and hopefully become an All-Star. "
Bogut also likes the idea of having the same head coach for a third consecutive season - and many of the same teammates who helped the franchise make a quantum leap last season.
"Stability is a big thing in the NBA," he said. "When you have stability, I think it definitely helps. I'm a guy that relies on stability. Having a guy who you know is going to be here for years to come, same as the GM and the owner is on board for the same thing. That all combined into a blender gives you stability and helps a player like me."
Bogut would also enjoy the stability of good health.
"Even if God forbid there was a setback, in four months with this type of injury it's pretty routine to get ready," he said. "The good thing about it is it's my hand as well, so if need be, I can still be conditioning. I can still do the bike and a little bit of running and that type of stuff, so I'll be 100 percent ready to go for training camp.
"Just getting myself healthy and my hand. I don't want this to be a thing that bothers me ever again, which it shouldn't be. I want to make sure that I'm strong and ready to go before I start basketball activities then just work on my game ... try to get better. I think it's fair to say I've gotten better every year since I've been in the NBA."
Bucks Head Coach Scott Skiles has taken note of Bogut's progress, and he is counting on its continuation.
"He's shown a lot of improvement," Skiles said. "He's better in the low post, he's always a good defender and things like that. He needs to get even better in the low post. He needs to make a face up shot to keep people honest. (He needs to) come back, be in great shape and be ready to go."
Straightaway, as Milwaukee's favorite Australian might say.