By Ben Golliver
Warriors center Andrew Bogut has had the most complicated road to recovery the NBA has seen since Greg Oden. This week brought more bad news and a revelation that the Warriors did not disclose the true nature of a surgery he underwent in April.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported this week that Bogut underwent microfracture surgery on his left ankle earlier this year, even though the Warriors initially said the surgery was a minor arthroscopic procedure.
The 7-footer said he had microfracture surgery, a much more serious procedure, and there's still way too much swelling to engage in strenuous activity. Playing in Saturday's game against Indiana, he says, is absolutely out of the question.
"It's frustrating," said Bogut, who addressed the media Tuesday after missing consecutive practices in which the team had said he was likely to participate. "People look at you and think, 'Why are you still hurting? It's just an ankle.' That's the feeling I get sometimes. ... You feel like you're letting down the team, the fans and the organization."
Bogut missed the entire preseason and has played in just four games this season, averaging 6.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in 18.3 minutes.
On Wednesday, Bogut and Warriors GM Bob Myers addressed the issue in a press conference, speaking together to make it clear that player and organization were on the same page about expectations for Bogut's return.
The Contra Costa Times reports that Bogut said that there was "never any pressure" from the Warriors to come back too soon from the injury. He was noncommittal about his return, saying it could take months.
"The season's five, six months before the playoffs, which we have a great chance of making," he said. "I don't think it's going to be five, six months. I hope it won't be. It would be a massive setback if it was. I'm not going to say a month or two months or three months, but I definitely think I'll be back."
Myers, meanwhile, defended his organization against the notion that they purposefully failed to disclose the nature of Bogut's injury.
"On any injury that occurs, I don't think there's any attempt at deception or omission," Myers said. "We convey it how we think is appropriate as long as we're on the same page with the athlete. I like to think that we are transparent, and that we always will be and try to do a good job informing the media."
Whether or not you believe Myers, this looks terrible for the Warriors. The idea of true transparency is to avoid exactly this kind of he-said/he-said miscommunication. The idea of true transparency is to lay out all the facts when they are available, regardless of how that might impact public perception. The standard for disclosure is "as medically accurate as possible" not what a profit-motivated organization determines is "appropriate."
Hindsight does not treat the Warriors kindly. Golden State took a major risk in trading guard Monta Ellis to the Bucks for Bogut, who played just 12 games for Milwaukee last season. They exchanged Ellis' off-the-court issues and less-than-ideal fit next to guard Stephen Curry for Bogut's long injury history. That trade occurred on March 13. Bogut's surgery took place on April 27, just after the Warriors finished their 2011-12 season 3-17 amid cries from many corners that they were outright tanking. The microfracture news, at that particular moment, would clearly have had a very negative impact. Whether or not the Warriors did intentionally deceive in their discussion of Bogut's surgery, the appearance now is that they put off the bad news, hoping that they could avoid the bad public relations, hoping they wouldn't have to address second-guessers of the trade, and hoping that Bogut would get healthy by the start of the 2012-13 season so that no one would be the wiser.
Warriors management really has no outs here. They either intentionally hid the details of the surgery, in which case they did a total disservice to their fan base and the truth. Or, they weren't totally clear on the exact specifics of the procedure and presented an optimistic view of it, in which case they did a disservice to Bogut and the fanbase by painting a picture that was rosier than reality. At best, Golden State was misleading. At worst, it deceived for its own benefit. This team, of all teams, should know better. The Warriors have been hit by injury after injury after injury in recent years and there's no sense compounding that damage by raising expectations and/or obfuscating medical information. Just take the lumps. It's always better to be called out for making a poor trade than to be called a liar.