The Andrew Bogut era in Milwaukee officially ended last Tuesday when the Bucks traded the talented, but injury-plagued center and enigmatic veteran swingman Stephen Jackson to the Golden State Warriors for high-octane scoring guard Monta Ellis, a raw but improving big man in Ekpe Udoh and salary cap fodder in center Kwame Brown.
The transaction created quite a buzz around the NBA, although it shouldn’t have startled anyone.
The Bucks had been quietly shopping Bogut and it wasn’t a question of if he would be dealt but when.
That became apparent after last season when Bucks coach Scott Skiles publicly questioned Bogut’s toughness and work ethic. It was an egregious error.
Bogut comes from a hard-working family and adopted a similar approach to his job. Bogut didn’t receive the John Wooden award while at Utah, become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft or earn third-team all-NBA honors because he lacked toughness.
When Skiles made his ill-conceived remarks, an already strained relationship between the coach and star player became virtually non-existent.
While Skiles later recognized he had struck a sensitive chord with Bogut and attempted to rectify the problem by apologizing to him, the damage was clearly done.
Skiles and Bogut continued to be odds at various times this season. In a game against Denver at the Bradley Center, Skiles benched Bogut for all but seven minutes of the second half. In that same game, Skiles benched Jackson for the entire second half.
After the game, Jackson, who has never been bashful about expressing his feelings, verbally lashed out at Skiles. And it wasn’t for benching him; it was for benching Bogut. In Jackson’s opinion, Skiles disrespected a veteran and the team’s best player.
And what did Bogut think of being benched? He didn’t say. Before reporters arrived, Bogut had angrily left the Bradley Center.
Less than a week later, in a game against Atlanta, Skiles benched Bogut for the fourth quarter.
Skiles later said he kept Bogut on the bench because he was “struggling.” Bogut did struggle offensively, going 3 for 10 from the field. However, Bogut played well defensively, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking a shot after just three quarters.
A recent published report said Bogut didn’t request a trade. That’s accurate. However, he didn’t need to as Bucks executives were well aware of his displeasure in Milwaukee.
David Bauman, Bogut’s agent, had several discussions about his client’s unhappiness not only with Bucks general manager John Hammond but also with Bucks owner Herb Kohl.
The Bucks, who repeatedly pooh-poohed reports last summer they were looking to trade Bogut, were more than willing to listen for offers for Bogut.
In fact, when the Bucks finally did trade Bogut last week, Warriors general manager Larry Riley acknowledged he had spoken to the Bucks about Bogut last June.
The Warriors weren’t alone in their quest to obtain one of the league’s best interior defenders, shot-blockers and passers.
The Houston Rockets also coveted Bogut. Desperately looking to fill the huge void created when Yao Ming was forced to retire because of foot issues, the Rockets internally discussed different trade scenarios and continued pursuing Bogut right to the bitter end last week.
While the Rockets lost out in the Bogut Sweepstakes, the Warriors came away the big winners. After seeing how their small-ball style of play was going nowhere, they were ecstatic to land a blue-chip big man in Bogut who, despite his two serious but flukish injuries, is just 27 years old and entering the prime of his career.
They are eagerly anticipating Bogut being surrounded by a cast of exceptional perimeter shooters like point guard Stephen Curry and shooting guard Klay Thompson.
Ironically, Thompson could have easily been Bogut’s teammate in Milwaukee. The Bucks were in position to draft Thompson last June with the 10th overall pick. Instead, Hammond and Skiles agreed to trade the pick as part of a multi-team, multi-player transaction that brought them Jackson from Charlotte.
Jackson, Bucks’ officials proclaimed at the time, would be a major piece to their puzzle. But, to the surprise of no one, Jackson quickly got in Skiles’ doghouse and never got out of it.
The Jackson fiasco, which came on the heels of the Corey Maggette fiasco the year before, only added more fuel to Bogut’s fire to depart Milwaukee.
When Bogut got his wish last week, he departed in a classy manner. He expressed his gratitude to Bucks fans, praised his teammates and expressed his appreciation for the support he received from Kohl. He even emphatically denied any significant rift existed between him and Skiles. Likewise, Skiles downplayed the rift.
But those who know Bogut and Skiles were aware of their acrimonious relationship and how Bogut craved a new lease on his NBA life.
The Warriors were only too willing accommodate him. Jerry West, the Hall of Fame guard who is now an executive board member for the Warriors, fairly gushed about how the Warriors have a polished and proven center. He was obviously cognizant of how difficult it is in the NBA to have one who could be the franchise’s cornerstone for years to come.
“I think next year ... oh, my goodness,” West said. “If I were a fan, I’d be very, very excited. We got one of the best big men in the league. Period.”
As for the Bucks, they’ll be the ones now searching long and hard for a center the caliber of Bogut.