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Bogut downplays injury concerns, relishes fresh start with Warriors

OAKLAND, Calif. -- His game can't do the talking just yet, what with the walking boot holding him back and all.

Andrew Bogut is still on the shelf, still in perpetual rehab, still hopeful that the injuries that have tainted his career will end at some point and that he can assume his new role as savior of a long-failing franchise. But a broken left ankle has put his Golden State debut on hold until next season -- along with casting doubt about his availability to play for Australia at the Summer Olympics -- and the tortured fans who were so incensed to see shooting guard Monta Ellis go in the March 14 trade for the 27-year-old center need help in understanding why this is such a good idea. So Bogut, who was more than happy to leave Milwaukee and all those years of misfortune behind, is doing his talking the old-fashioned way.

Time will tell if Bogut can be an actual star in a Warriors uniform, but he has been a media star of late. Hour-long segments on local radio stations, 90-minute sit-downs with the local newspaper, phone interviews whenever needed in an attempt to engage and perhaps educate the unsatisfied masses. One playoff appearance in the last 17 seasons means that the Warriors' faithful doesn't have much faith left, and Bogut is well aware that the boos that rained down on owner Joe Lacob at Oracle Arena on March 19 were partly because of the deal that brought him here.

In an interview with SI.com at the team's practice facility Monday, Bogut challenged the notion that he's injury-prone, talked about being criticized while playing hurt, explained why it was time to part ways with the Bucks and analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of his new team.

SI.com: How did you hear about the trade?

Bogut: I saw it pop up on Twitter, and called my agent and said, "Is it true?" And he said, "It's 90 percent [done]. I didn't want to call you until it was approved by the league." That's just the way it is with social media. It's so instant and so quick, it goes viral.

SI.com: How has this whole whirlwind been for you? You're familiar with hype from having been a former No. 1 pick. But this is a team where the fan base has been dying for a winner for a long time and you just got thrown on that hot seat in terms of being the guy. What has it been like?

Bogut: Well, first of all, it's a fresh start for me. These days, to be seven years in one spot in any pro sport is a pretty long tenure. But it has been a whirlwind. I got the call Tuesday night, packed my bags Wednesday morning, was here Wednesday night, went through all the physicals and have been here ever since.

I know NBA history pretty well, so I know a lot about the [Chris] Mullin, [Tim] Hardaway era -- Run TMC with Mitch Richmond and so on. I was a kid during all that. Obviously, I didn't know the history to the point of one playoff appearance in I think it's 16 or 17 years. That was all brought to my attention. I know Monta was a fan favorite, so a lot of people were disappointed to see him go. But in this league, I know you've got to give up something to get something, so hopefully I can be that guy to help us get back to the playoffs.

SI.com: Any part of you relishing the chance to show these fans why it was a good move?

Bogut: The most frustrating thing about all this hype and how people are getting excited -- saying, "We finally got a big guy" -- is I'm stuck in a boot and I can't play. It's frustrating, but it's part of pro sports and I've got to stay positive with it, to prove myself once the timing is right.

SI.com: What's your day to day like right now? You've tweeted a couple of times about how beautiful the team's practice facility is, so you're obviously spending a lot of time there.

Bogut: Ah, it's beautiful. It's a phenomenal facility. I haven't seen an NBA facility like this on the road or at home. You have three full-size courts, obviously they've renovated a lot of the stuff inside -- just everything. From the bathrooms to the shower facilities, the hot tubs, cold tubs, training room, everything about it. The first thing I said when I walked in was, "Wow."

My day to day is pretty simple. I do weight training four times a week. On my off days, I do core. I ride the bike about 40 minutes a day, so I'm starting to feel like Lance Armstrong. The trainers are killing me on that bike. And then I do about an hour of treatment, mobilization, soft tissue, a lot of ice. It doesn't stop there. When I go back to my room, I go eat lunch and then ice again. I usually ice another three or four times during the day. And that's basically what I'm doing all day.

SI.com: I've heard you talk about how if you come back too early, or maybe even try to play in the Olympics, that your ankle could get much worse. Should Warriors fans be concerned?

Bogut: I'll be ready by October. That's a certainty. The problem right now is not rushing back, and that's why the decision was made that I'm probably not going to play this season. The one thing after that is obviously the Olympics, but if I rush back from this injury and I'm 90 percent, 95 percent, it increases the chance of that bone fracture actually becoming a break. Then I'd have all kinds of issues that would lead to a major surgery, and there's no point trying to risk getting into that. That's why I've been in the boot probably a little longer than I should. It's almost eight weeks and they said eight weeks in the boot, and they're probably going to actually make me go 10 because they want to make sure that it's healing.

SI.com: You've been sidelined a lot because of injury in your seven years. How tough has it been mentally?

Bogut: Yeah, it's tough, but it's part of sports. I've had two unlucky injuries that are the equivalent of walking under 1,000 ladders and seeing 1,000 black cats. The arm injury [sustained on April 3, 2010], first and foremost, was a split-second thing that you can't control. You're in the air, you get a little push, couldn't hang on to the rim. And then this one, I fall on someone's foot, had gone up pretty hard to block a shot.

It's frustrating, because I look back and say, "What could I have done differently? Nothing." There's nothing I could've done differently in the weight room over the summer, there's nothing I could've done conditioning-wise to save those two injuries. The only injury I've ever had that was due to a lack of strength in my core was the stress fracture [in his back in February 2009], but that could even be looked at as an overuse. I came from an NBA season to an Olympics to an NBA season. These aren't chronic injuries. That's the most frustrating thing. For the people on the outside looking in, they say, "Oh, he's missed this many games and he's injury-prone." That's a stigma I have. I'll deal with it. I'm not too worried about it, because I know how I play when I'm out there and all my injuries are play-hard injuries.

SI.com: What toll did the injuries take on your relationship with the Bucks? They use the No. 1 pick on you and, as hard as it was for you, there's obviously the other side of it where their centerpiece wasn't available nearly as often as they'd hoped. It seemed like maybe both parties were just ready to move on.

Bogut: Well, the one thing I would say is that I came off an arm surgery when I hurt my elbow, and came back [for the 2010-11 season] and we still didn't sign a backup big [man]. We let Kurt Thomas walk, and he had a great year for us. I can definitely question the way things were ran there, too, but I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty. But I would've liked to have had a backup big. We haven't had a backup big man [in Milwaukee] probably since Jamaal Magloire was there [in 2005-06]. And to be fair, we've had [power forwards] who play the [center spot], so that's frustrating.

Obviously, [his injuries] take a toll on the franchise, too. There's no doubt about it. That's why I think it was like a civil, mutual divorce, where both parties are still friends. I've still got a lot of ties with people who work in that franchise, not only with the players and coaches, but the front office and ticket sales. I've got a lot of friends there and it definitely wasn't bitter. I think it's a sigh of fresh air for both sides.

SI.com: But how badly did you want out? When I hear that you'd made a "trade request," I'm always wondering what level of urgency there is to get out.

Bogut: I think I was easy with it either way. It would've been nice to spend my whole career in one city, but I think at the same time it got to the point where they approached me with scenarios and I definitely didn't rebut them. I wasn't a guy who said, "No, that's bull----, I want to stay here.' But I wasn't the guy who said, "Get me the 'F' out of here. I hate it here." I think it was as mutual as it gets. It was handled very professionally. It was just time, man. People were frustrated with my injuries, and we weren't having a great year anyway, and I was frustrated with the way my injuries were treated by people there. I think the best thing for both parties was to go their own way.

SI.com: What do you mean by "the way your injuries were treated"?

Bogut: It's always tough with injuries of this magnitude, because I can't come out and say [anything]. After I hurt my elbow [in April 2010], people were like, "Why are his offensive numbers down?" [in the 2010-11 season when he returned]. I can't come out and say, "Well, my elbow is totally screwed and I'm playing through a lot of pain." But I would've liked a bit more from the franchise on that side of things, [for them] to come out and say, "He's playing with a piece of bone loose in his elbow."

I didn't mind [criticism], but I think at the end of the season professionally it took a toll on me. I'm supposed to be one of the franchise players, so it wouldn't have been a bad thing if they kind of had my back a little bit in that sense rather than me trying to come out and saying, "Well, my elbow is pretty screwed and I'm out here playing at 85 percent for this whole season." But in hindsight, it's one of those things that you learn from and move on from.

SI.com: You don't sound thrilled with the way your injuries were handled medically. How would you characterize the treatment?

Bogut: OK. I wouldn't say great. I wouldn't say bad. The thing with NBA teams, a lot of times they just want to get you back on the floor to play, so as a player you've got to be very, very smart. There are a lot of athletes these days who take anti-inflammatory pills when they shouldn't -- they take pills like they're candy. At the end of the day, it's a trainer's job on an NBA team and team doctors to get you back on the floor. That's how they're evaluated on their performance, so a lot of times you've got to be smart with your body and know your own body.

SI.com: Are there times when you wish you would've not pushed your way back so soon?

Bogut: No. The one that hurt me, that really got to me, was playing with the elbow injury [in the 2010-11 season], because I was complaining with pain for a number of months, and it was kind of like, "Ah, you'll be fine, suck it up" type of thing, and I knew something wasn't right with the elbow. And then when I had the scope at the end of the season, they found a bunch of scar tissue and a floating bone in there. So it kind of let me sleep at night knowing that I wasn't complaining about nothing. But at the same time, it was pretty frustrating. But that's how it is. I don't know if they knew or if they didn't, but at the end of the day, they want you on the floor.

SI.com: Did you have an appetite to play in a bigger market? The Warriors obviously haven't won much, but this is a big market and the new owners want to capitalize on that. Did that matter to you at all?

Bogut: It's not a bad thing. I've had discussions and talked to people here and said, "Why isn't this a destination where free agents want to come?" Obviously, it's not the city, it's not the weather; it's the franchise. We need to get the franchise back where it needs to be, where it's a spot where they say, "Oh, OK, we've got Andrew Bogut, we've got Stephen Curry, we've got David Lee, I'm a premier 3-man [small forward] and I want to sign there." I think everybody here is trying to get it to that point.

Joe is a phenomenal owner. He knows the game very, very well. He gets criticized because he's involved with the daily operations, but hey, he paid a half-billion dollars for the team so he has every right to. And he's striving to do that, to make this a premier destination, and I think there's no excuse why it can't be in the next couple of years.

SI.com: How good can you guys be -- if healthy?

Bogut: It all depends on how we guard, first and foremost. We score a lot of points, but we've got to bring a better defensive mindset. From me being an outsider looking in these last five or six games, we've got to guard. And that's why I'm here, to protect the paint. We have to take an onus defensively that we're going to stop teams and not [just] outscore teams, but still have that free-flowing offense that we have.

So realistically, it's hard for me to say right now. Probably after a training camp with the guys we can see where we're at, but I'm excited. [Rookie guard) Klay [Thompson] is having a hell of a run. We're seeing what he can do and he's proving that he's a flat-out shooter. We need to get Steph healthy, and myself healthy. D-Lee is a 15-10, 20-10 guy every night.

SI.com: Your bosses definitely hope you can help Lee on the defensive end, and you're both good passers, so how well do you think it could work?

Bogut: I think we will mesh well, because D-Lee is starting to shoot the jumper much better than he did his first couple of seasons. He can put it on the floor, he can pass. And I can do the same thing. When you have two bigs in there who want to float around the paint, it helps. I haven't played with a 4-man in four or five years who bangs in there much like D-Lee. So to have a guy like that, it'll clog the paint up a little bit and won't be as open floor, but it'll definitely help us.

SI.com: How do you see the defensive end?

Bogut: A lot of times [Lee] is guarding the big man, the centers, but he's undersized. He's not a 5-man. I'll take that load off of him defensively, so he'll have his legs offensively and teams are going to have to box me out on the offensive boards and he's going to get free runs at offensive rebounds. The good thing is that we're both good passers, so I think the ball will move very well. We're not selfish guys and we want to win.

SI.com: Curry was over here joking that you guys are the "Ankle Brothers." I don't think we'll be seeing posters promoting that, but you guys unfortunately have that in common. There's a lot riding on those two ankles.

Bogut: Yeah, there is. But there's a lot of pressure on everybody, and that's why I don't feel the pressure all on me. I think everybody has it -- coach [Mark Jackson] included. It's going to be his second year. Steph needs to bounce back from the injury. I need to bounce back from the injury. D-Lee needs to put those numbers up on a winning team. Klay is going to be going into his second year so he'll have pressure on him. RJ [Richard Jefferson] wants to win as a veteran. In between all that, I think we'll have a pretty good team.

There are a lot of guys who need to respond to critics, myself included, and I think that's a good challenge to have. When we get in training camp, I think one thing I'll probably do is say, "This is what's said about everybody from around the league, about each one of you guys." Generally, teams come in here thinking it's going to be a fun, free-flowing game, and we've got to change that. People need to come in here to Oracle, with this crowd that we have, and know that it's going to be a fight. You're not going to walk out of here with an easy win.

SI.com: Early impressions of living here?

Bogut: It's great. Yesterday, I tweeted about the way the hills and the mountains meet the Bay. It's just a phenomenal thing to wake up to every day. People generally seem happier here. I think living near the water helps with that. Everything you want, you can find here.

I'm a big car guy, and yesterday there was a big car show that I went out to for an hour or two in Pleasanton at the showgrounds there. There's so much going on here. You're close to everything. Not that I surf, but you've got surf beaches, vineyards, wineries, mountains, can go mountain biking, can go hiking. It's phenomenal to have everything so close, and it's only one flight from Australia, which is a bonus to me.

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