We’re not quite in February, but Groundhog Day has already arrived for center Andrew Bogut and Bucks’ fans.
I happened to be conducting business with my ticket rep when the news release confirming Bogut’s broken ankle and declaring him out 8-12 weeks was issued. If we estimate on the high side, Bogut could be gone for the rest of the regular season, putting hopes of a playoff berth in serious jeopardy.
The news undoubtedly left the 7-footer immeasurably frustrated. Bogut said after Wednesday’s gritty comeback win in Houstonthat he “felt like a voodoo doll and someone was sticking pins in him.” This time, the offender was tiny Kyle Lowry’s foot.
You have to feel for Bogut. Bad luck injuries have befallen him on legitimate basketball plays. He doesn’t possess the oversized, brittle frame of Yao Ming or Greg Oden. To add further insult to injury, the schedule presented the Bucks with the Bulls and Lakers, clubs that arguably sport the most quality size in the NBA, in the fist two games sans the Aussie. Three encounters with Dwight Howard also loom next month.
Such is life in the unforgiving world of pro sports. Any Scott Skiles-led team won’t quit. He won’t allow it. That showed during the “We are winning this f—ing thing for Andrew” game against the previously-hot Rockets. Friday’s loss to Chicago was mostly a credible effort versus a superior team.
The harsh reality, however, is this: A team that loses its only viable center is unlikely to make the playoffs, and the grim news certainly left many fans counting the days until Spring Training.
Presuming Joel Pryzbilla stays retired, the team’s glut of power forwards will man the paint. Drew Gooden will slide to center and produce offensively. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute’s defensive prowess will be more needed than ever. Ersan Ilyasova must avoid disappearing in games. Rookies Jon Leuer (19 points in 20 minutes Friday) and Tobias Harris will continue to do whatever they’re asked.
Nothing any of those guys do can equal the skills of Bogut, especially his post passing, defensive communication and protection of the basket. His value was on full display in his absence as the Bulls dominated the glass with 20 offensive rebounds and Derrick Rose penetrated with ease while scoring a season-best 34 points.
All players must adjust when a star goes down. So too should the coaches. Brandon Jennings’ suggestion of double-teaming Rose is worth a try when the Bulls and many of their fans invade next Saturday.
As devastating a blow as Bogut’s injury is, rest and sympathy from opponents will be in short supply. The Lakers are next. Who will step up?