Hurting Andrew Bogut bides his time

Hurting Andrew Bogut bides his time

Australian Boomer Andrew Bogut feels jealous as he watches the NBA playoffs but the Milwaukee star understands the importance of being patient now, writes James Dampney for AAP.

Back problems can be debilitating, on-going and frustrating for anyone but those factors are accentuated when the person is seven feet (213cm) tall and in a sporting career where back strength is vital to career longevity.

That's why Bogut, one of the most important figures in Australian basketball for years to come, is being so cautious in his comeback from the stress fracture that ruined his fourth NBA season.

Back in Melbourne for some rest and recuperation, the Milwaukee centre has been forbidden from working out until his back fully heals.

Bogut is desperate to repay the faith shown in him by the Bucks, who last year signed the centre to a five-year, $US60 million ($A80.96 million) contract extension that kicks in next season.

So the 24-year-old knows he must proceed with caution and take a long-term view.

“I'm waiting to get another MRI scan, which will be in about a week,” said Bogut.

“It should show us it's fully healed and then I'll start doing stuff slowly.

“Because it's such a long off-season, there's no point trying to rush it and then set myself back.

“We need to make sure it's 100 per cent healed, so I'm not doing any strenuous activities at all.

“I've got the whole (American) summer to get ready for next season.”

The waiting has at least given him time to for some of his other passions, including muscle cars and poker.

Bogut demonstrated impressive durability over the first three years of his NBA career, playing 231 of a possible 251 games after becoming the No.1 pick in the 2005 draft.

But lately he has shown signs of wear and tear.

An ankle injury in Australia's quarter-final loss to the United States at the Beijing Olympics was followed by a minor knee problem early in the 2008-09 NBA season.

He was then in and out of the Milwaukee line-up for a number of weeks from late December before the fracture was finally diagnosed, ending his season.

He played just 36 of Milwaukee's 82 games as they finished with a disappointing 34-48 record.

“I played through it for almost two months on and off and it was frustrating,” he said.

“I couldn't play 100 per cent and still went out there and gave it a go until it was decided I should just shut it down.

“With three months left in the season that was very frustrating. You never want to be watching games in street clothes.

“I was there to support my teammates, but it just became so frustrating watching and clapping and doing those things that I don't want to do. For the rest of my career I don't want to have any injuries.”

Bogut was averaging 11.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and one block per game before his injury.

They're solid enough numbers, but Bogut and the Bucks know he is capable of more when he gets healthy.

“It's a big summer not only for him to rest up, but to put in a good, hard summer of skill work, body work,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said.

“We made a significant investment in Andrew and he was having a very good year.

“We need him to take another step forward.”

New Boomers assistant coach Shane Heal has every confidence the big man will make a complete recovery.

“Whether you're a guard or a big guy, backs can really debilitate people,” Heal said. “But with his work ethic, this will be a good time for him to spend a few months to be right for the next NBA season.”

Bogut has had a steep learning curve since making his way from Melbourne's Endeavour Hills to the bright lights of the NBA.

Once he signed his first NBA contract, people suddenly came out of the woodwork hoping for a slice, but he has learned how to deal with it.

“It doesn't bother me as much as it used to. It's just simple to say no now,” he says.

He would also happily play out his entire career in Milwaukee, but knows that's probably unlikely in the ever-changing NBA landscape.

Once his back fully heals, the one thing Bogut craves above all else in his NBA career is another trip to the playoffs, his lone appearance coming in his rookie year.

“Obviously Milwaukee put their faith in me and signed me to a long-term deal and I was happy to sign it,” he said.

“It's somewhere I enjoy being. The only thing I haven't enjoyed is we haven't made a playoff push.

“That's on my shoulders as much as anyone else.

“I definitely need to perform better to help the team get there and I'm excited to go back next season.

“Just watching the playoff atmosphere right now, I'm jealous of every team that's there. It's a great thing to be part of.”

Photo courtesy of Paul Munt