Andrew Bogut dominant in unexpected return for Rio Games
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Andrew Bogut wanted one more shot to represent Australia at the Olympics and wasn’t going to let an injury take that away again.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft tumbled to the floor with a hyperextended knee in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, and no one really expected him to get up this summer.
But here he is in Rio, making a nearly perfect NBA debut.
The injury looked bad, and not to mention played a significant role in the Golden State Warriors losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers after setting the NBA regular-season record at 73 wins.
But the new Dallas Maverick looked fully recovered, scoring 18 points on 9 for 10 shooting in Australia’s 87-66 win over France on Saturday. He played his usual complete game, pulling four rebounds to go with five assists.
Bogut said after the injury, his plans were still to play in the Olympics, there was just the matter of how the knee felt. There was extra motivation after missing the 2012 London Games with an ankle injury and dealing with back spasms during a regional Olympic qualifier in 2015. The 31-year old may not get another chance to play on this stage.
He said he was upset about missing it, adding “that would have been my (third) if I played in that one.” Bogut said. “I was like, I don’t want it to end that way where I’m just sitting at home with ice on my knee if I can give it a crack.
“I didn’t want it taken away that easily. I said I’ll give it a crack up until this day. If it wasn’t right yesterday, I’d put my hand up and I’m on a flight back home.”
Bogut wasn’t just a body trudging up and down the court on Saturday.
He caught six alley-oops despite playing a France team with Utah Jazz 7-foot-1 center and defensive specialist Rudy Gobert. Bogut had previously played sparingly against China and Spain in exhibitions since the NBA Finals.
“I felt good, I kind of was surprised that I did,” Bogut said. The alley-oops were “not something we specifically targeted. … When you’ve got smart guys like (Matthew Dellavedova) and Patty (Mills) handling the ball, you get a couple of easy baskets.”
Bogut may not have expected to play so well, but some members of the team were surprised he’s even in Rio. Assistant coach Luc Longley thought he was done when Bogut went down in the NBA playoffs.
“I do know he’s a tough hombre,” Longley said. “We had him New Zealand last year with a really, really bad back and he managed to get himself up and play and play well and dominant. If somebody is going to get it done, he’s the character who is going to find a way to play.”
This is about the early timeline Bogut was expected to return. He’s not wearing a brace, but has the knee taped and wrapped under layers of padding enough to allow him to run, but also keep the pain to a minimum. There was some concern the Mavs would ask him to sit out after being traded from the Warriors, but the team was open to it long as the knee was healthy.
“It’s been mentally and physically tolling to try and make this,” Bogut said. “I didn’t think I was going to make it early on. And then the further and further I got I said I’ve got a chance, I’ve got a chance. It went from 10 percent chance to 20 percent chance and there were some dark days, but I ended up rehabbing fine and got back.”
Teammate Joe Ingles added, “He promised us he was going to do everything he could and you saw tonight he obviously did.”
It was a big win for an Australian team that has never medaled in the Olympics. This may be their best team in international play with five NBA players and France was considered by many to be the second-best team in the tournament. The Frenchmen also had five NBA players on the roster.
Bogut’s Olympics got off to a rocky start after he complained about the lodging conditions on social media, but apparently things have gotten better.
“The comments were never to disparage Brazil or the people in Brazil,” Bogut said. “It was more with the IOC more than anybody. The Brazilians have done a fantastic job of sending people to our room daily to see if anything needs fixing. They’re trying to get things right.
“I apologize to the people of Brazil. I never intended that to be a shot at them. It was more a shot at the IOC to get out of the penthouse suites and get things rolling a little bit better.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers contributed to this report