Andrew Bogut and Matthew Dellavedova represent opposite sides of the basketball spectrum. One is an established NBA center whose defense and ability to protect the rim helps his team win games, the other is a newbie in the world’s best league who relies on cerebral play to navigate his way through a league where quicker point guards rule the hardwood.
For Andrew Bogut, the nine-year veteran, this season is all about re-establishing himself as one of the league’s premier centers. His battle with injury has been well documented, but Bogut says he’s fully healthy for the first time in years. The Warriors are also primed to have a big season with many experts picking them as a darkhorse in the loaded Western Conference.
The team will only travel as far as a healthy Bogut can take them though, surprising, considering many thought he may never play like his old self again when he was hobbled by back complaints and ankle problems for the better part of the last two seasons.
Bogut told Basketball Australia that he’s entering 2013-14 with a renewed sense of motivation, and is looking forward to contributing the way he’s normally accustomed to.
“For sure. Having an off-season to work on my game has been great. My ankle feels night-and-day better and I can't wait to get started. We have a great team and we are very well balanced, so I feel like pressure is not on one guy, which is a huge weapon to have,” said Bogut.
Offensively the Warriors have a number of weapons - Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and newly acquired Andre Iguodala, - that, on any given night win them ballgames, but defense wins championships and Bogut is the team’s anchor.
During last year’s playoffs the Australian showed what he is capable of when he’s healthy, but the team just didn’t have that edge to get past the San Antonio Spurs. This season Bogut has outlined two clear goals, one team and one personal.
“To make it further than the 2nd round of the playoffs, and to have a much better year personally than I did last year. Just being more consistent and playing with a new confidence will be key, considering I know I put the work in this off-season,” states Bogut. “We had a great year [last season] team wise. I knew it would be tough hobbling around but I am proud that I gave it a crack. This year will be much better for me personally.”
The pressures on to surpass last season’s achievements, but guess who isn’t going to crack? Bogut promises the Warriors’ season will be ‘intense.’
“Of course [there’s pressure], we are marked men and will not be sneaking up on anybody,” said Bogut. “ We will have to accept that. We will not surprise teams as underdogs, so it will be a much more intense season in that sense.”
Matthew Dellavedova has had an interesting few months, going from being undrafted to the cusp of making an NBA roster. In the process the St. Mary’s product is fast learning that the NBA is a business, and it pays not to look too far ahead. Wisdom that seldom few young players possess.
Since June’s NBA draft where he failed to get picked up, Dellavedova has been non-stop, racking up the frequent-flyer miles, and staying on his grind.
“It’s definitely been busy,” said Dellavedova. “Playing Summer League, and then going back [to Australia] to play with the national team which was good, and then a little bit of time at home and then back here [Cleveland] getting ready for training camp. It’s definitely been busy but you can’t look too far ahead.
“You’ve just got to take it one day at a time, and just keep taking care of your body.”
Dellavdova admits he wasn’t entirely happy with his Summer League play, the jump in talent from the college division to the pros was huge, but the young guard’s international experience has seen him keep a level head while learning the league on the fly.
He says he’s had to adjust his game slightly.
“I probably didn’t play as well as I would have liked [in Summer League], but I thought I did a pretty good job of trying to run the team, but that experience has definitely helped me in training camp and the preseason games so far,” he says. “It’s definitely a step up from college in just how smart the players are, their length and athleticism, but playing in the national team with the Boomers – and going to the Olympics - has helped me a lot.
“One [adjustment] I’m trying to make is not jumping the pass. I could get away with that at the college level [but] players in the NBA are that quick that they can recover back.”
Making the transition smoother for ‘Delly’ is Kyrie Irving, one of the league’s best point guards - and another player with Australian connections.
“It’s definitely been a great experience with him so far,” says Dellavedova. “Being able to go against him in practice I’ve learned a lot, and got better already. His on-ball stuff, and changes of direction, I’ve been trying to pick up stuff from that.”
There are fifteen spots available on the Cavaliers roster, and Dellavedova is going after the third point guard spot behind Irving and Jarrett Jack. There’s a strong chance he will become the fourth Australian in the NBA, but to make the final cut he must be patient, and continue to work hard on his game. Again, Dellavedova understands that looking too far ahead at this stage is pointless.
“Right now I’m just trying to make the roster here. Just short-term [goals] right now, [laughs]” says Dellavedova. “I’m just worrying about that right now, just putting everything into that and we’ll see how we go.”
*Note: Andrew Bogut’s interview was conducted prior to his leaving the Warriors’ game against the Lakers with back spasms last Friday. Word from Golden State is that they are not concerned with the injury and expect him back in the lineup shortly.