Andrew Bogut, you sly dog.
When the towering Melburnian sat in front of a crowd of press members back in April of last year, he was adamant that the NBL was his future, plain and simple.
His contract with the Sydney Kings, quite notably, had no out clauses for opportunities with the NBA or Europe, and he spoke with conviction about his dedication to his new team, his new league, and his new life.
“That will retire me from the NBA,” he declared of his two-year deal.
“It’s like, I’m staying. I’m committed to you guys. I wanna be in Australia. Like I said, if I’m gonna commit to it, I’m gonna commit to it.”
And so he did. For a little while, anyway.
Shortly after a successful opening campaign in Sydney, boasting both a league MVP and a rather cryptic Defensive Player of the Year award, Bogut returns to the NBA and the perpetual powerhouse Golden State Warriors, making it clear that, in all fairness, he didn’t really need an out clause.
Bogut has played the whole situation about as well as possible. By committing to the Kings through the 2018/19 NBL season, he keeps his options wide open once his return to Golden State has come to its end.
True to the logo on his new jersey, no bridges have been burnt in Sydney. This sojourn back to the States could be a blip on the radar — ten minutes per game, relieving incumbent starter DeMarcus Cousins and providing his trademark brand of stout defense, and perhaps another ring on his finger.
We’ll find out how much he has left in the tank tomorrow against the Spurs, with Cousins’ sore right foot forcing the big Aussie into action earlier than anticipated.
Looking beyond that, his future probably remains in Sydney. As Winston opined previously, the odds of Bogut turning his back on the NBL are fairly unlikely.
His role with the Kings and long-term potential to be a stakeholder with the franchise are surely far more enticing than the idea of being a warm body at the end of an NBA rotation, fraught with the kind of uncertainty that caused him to leave the league in the first place.
Of course, should the situation appear more favourable than that — say, an expanded role with the Warriors — there’s always the possibility he negotiates his way out permanently, leaving the NBL standing there with its proverbial hands in its pockets as its prom date gets snatched away.
After all, there’s more money to be made in America, and the only thing worse than losing Bogut would surely be keeping him hostage as an unwitting participant.
A fascinating point to consider is what Bogut’s successful double agent negotiation could mean for the NBL going forward, and to be honest, it’s actually a good thing.
Bogut is rare among Australian basketball players; still strong enough to dominate internationally, but not necessarily able to keep up as a major factor in the NBA. He’s also on the wrong side of 30, having turned 34 back in November.
His countrymen, Patty Mills, 30, and Matthew Dellavedova, 28, are playing significant minutes with San Antonio and Cleveland, and figure to continue in those roles for a few more years.
However, Bogut has presented an attractive path for players of their ilk. Able to put down roots in the homeland, while still surveying opportunities in the NBA such as the one that became available in Golden State, Bogut has set the framework for what could potentially be a lucrative opportunity for declining Aussie stars.
Rather than languish in obscurity in the NBA, as he had been doing with the Mavericks, Cavaliers and Lakers, Bogut chose to become the face of the NBL, honour his commitments, and end up with a championship contender when it was all said and done.
Could others follow in his footsteps?
Obviously, it depends greatly on the situation available to them, but both Mills and Dellavedova have championship pedigrees, and are lauded as heroes for their exploits overseas, and as part of the national team.
With Mills’ current contract taking him to 2021, it’s a moot point on his front for the time being, and though Dellavedova is set to become a UFA next year, he reasonably has one more deal left in him before his abilities diminish significantly.
Past that, however, who knows what kind of familiar faces we could see donning an NBL jersey.
And we have Andrew Bogut to thank for that.