When news surfaced Tuesday that Warriors center Andrew Bogut wouldn’t be making the team’s upcoming road trip starting Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, only one thought came to mind: Good.
While it certainly means Bogut will be out longer than the seven to 10 days Golden State laid out Nov. 8 for the Aussie big man to rest his surgically repaired left ankle, it’s a refreshing sign of caution. That’s something that obviously hasn’t been exercised with Bogut and that precious ankle up to this point.
It’s clear both Bogut and the Warriors, who are 3-4 entering tonight’s home game against the Atlanta Hawks, were intent on getting him back on the floor as early in the season as possible. They laid out a plan to ease him in with limited minutes and no back-to-back game nights.
The desire to showcase Bogut early in the season makes sense. After trading the franchise’s most popular player, Monta Ellis, for a guy who simply sat on the bench in a suit and talked with a nifty accent last season, it’s understandable why they’d want to show off their newest toy to a rabid, but fed-up, fanbase.
During his limited time in the lineup this year, Bogut, while clearly not in top form, has shown glimpses of what a true NBA center looks like — something that’s been as foreign to the Bay Area as snow in the winter.
A big man who can rebound, defend, pass and — hold your breath — score with his back to the basket.
But ultimately, sticking Bogut out there so early in the season was the wrong move.
With the NBA’s Western Conference loaded with skilled big men — such as the Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol, Oklahoma City Thunder’s Serge Ibaka and San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan — it’s imperative the Warriors have Bogut at his best to counter with.
Who knows how long it will be before Bogut is back to full strength. There was no need to rush Bogut and yo-yo him in and out of the lineup. He should never have stepped foot on an NBA floor this year until he was clearly ready. It didn’t benefit Bogut, nor the rest of his teammates. And all it did to fans was serve as another reminder of what might be.
But the Warriors have a chance to fix that now.
With an improved bench led by the surprising Carl Landry and strong play from the backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Warriors have enough firepower to stay competitive minus their big man for a while. But in the end, if they want to sniff the playoffs, they’ll need their star center to be the backbone of the team.
So when it comes to Bogut, sacrifice the short term for the long term. Rest him. And rest him some more. One month, two months, till the All-Star break. Whatever it takes to get him to full strength.
Otherwise, it’ll be another season of unfulfilled promise for the Warriors. Something that’s become all too common for Golden State.
Dylan Kruse is the sports editor of The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @dkruse16.