The Rockets won and Andrew Bogut was angrily blunt. Last night reminded me of 10 days before, when Bogut sat at his corner locker, before a game against the Suns. He was affable, funny, engaging. It was pre-Warriors nosedive, so the Oracle atmosphere was suffuse with giddy. Then, when asked about what he could bring to the team, Bogut plainly pointed out that he could, “Catch a little bit better than Fez (Festus Ezeli), pass a little bit better than Fez, work a little bit better than Fez as another option.”
He just said it so casually that the surprise sank in when I listened to the recorded product. The statements were true, but not in keeping with how NBA players talk about teammates. The answers are usually more politically correct, especially when pertaining to “me vs. him” comparisons. That’s the athletic social norm that Andrew Bogut stands in stark contrast to.
Since that Suns victory, we’ve been witness to a 5-game Golden State swoon, one that nearly coincides with the Aussie’s return. I’m not blaming Andrew Bogut for the slump, as I believe this losing streak is more a function of the opposition finally hitting their threes than anything Bogut’s doing wrong.
The Rockets game was of a different pattern, though. Houston shot a poor percentage from deep, and Golden State still got smoked. They lost despite beating their opponent in free throws drawn. They lost despite losing the turnover and rebounding battles by a blip.
The issue was in the paint, where the Rockets overwhelmed a slow, disorganized Warriors defense. Some of the baskets came off of transition and some of them came from awful halfcourt lapses.
I’ve yet to review the game footage, but Bogut’s D did not strike me as particularly egregious (David Lee was another story). My main Bogut criticism was on offense, where he appeared a bit shy to shoot when close to the rim.
Andrew Bogut wasn’t shy to blame his teammates for what happened in this game, however:
“I think at the end of the day, you’ve got to stop your man. We have a great shell team defense. But I think at the end of the day, it’s you one-on-one in a battle with the guy you’re guarding, you know?”
“I mean, I can only do what I can do out there, that’s rebound, set screens, if guys are open, get them the ball, be a team guy. We’ve got great shooters on this team. But you’re going to have to watch the tape to know where our problems are.”
“Like I said earlier, our defense one-on-one is horrendous, 1 through 5, not just 1 or 2 guys. 1 through 5. We get beat it’s like, ‘Oh help, someone help me’”
The big man went on to describe GSW’s defense with profanity (*Gasps at the thought of profanity* *Slumps onto the fluffiest fainting couch*).
To be fair to Andrew Bogut’s assessment, defensive possessions like this happened:
So he’s speaking the truth. He’s just doing so in an impolitic way at an impolitic time.
The more NBA socially normative gesture is to blame oneself, or to rely on vague platitudes of, “We gotta get better,” or “We gotta get on the same page.” Andrew Bogut is cutting with his specificity.
I canvassed Australians on Twitter, asking these folks to help me stereotype them. There was widespread agreement that “friendly and charming, but also harshly blunt,” had a ring of truth when it came to describing the Aussie way. Andrew Bogut’s gruff may merely be indicative of a cultural difference.
Whatever the case, I’ve seen a mostly positive reaction to Tuesday night’s negative pronouncements. Though some fans blame Bogut for bringing famine and pestilence, many others appreciate the honesty. This organization has grown a reputation for sugar coating failure; Andrew Bogut conveys failure starkly, and there are legion Warriors supporters who love pain framed accurately.
Andrew Bogut rarely turns the negative public gaze on himself, though, and you have to wonder how his teammates feel about this. They were winning without him. Now, they’re losing with him and he’s calling them out.
The process of incorporating Bogut has been rocky, not just on the court. GSW’s biggest critic is also their newest addition. Maybe this tough talk is just what this team needs. Maybe the timing will make this team less inclined to accept it.