Aussies in NBA: Bogut remembers his run with the 73-win Warriors

Andrew Bogut’s basketball journey is inevitably winding down.

Bogut has already enjoyed the chasing stats phase of his career, with desires of individual accolades now supplanted with a thirst for team success. Basketball mortality is staring him right in the face. It has arguably been doing so, ever since Amar'e Stoudemire undercut his dunk attempt in 2010.

The man himself is pleasantly accepting of his place within the NBA pecking order. “I’m more of a role player now,” Bogut admitted during our wide-ranging chat earlier this month.

Bogut is one of Australia’s most self-aware athletes; basketball transience isn’t lost on the man himself. Bogut knows better than anyone where he currently sits and more importantly, what the ultimate goal of his waning NBA moments looks like.

“I won a championship, was part of a championship-winning team,” Bogut exhaled.

That championship came in 2015 with the Golden State Warriors. The Dubs punctuated a magical 67-win regular season with their first NBA title since 1975. Bogut captured NBA All-Defensive honours while anchoring the NBA’s best defence during the title campaign. He had finally reached the pinnacle of his profession, although reaching the mountaintop was just a precursor for the 12-month extravaganza that followed.

What came next was an assault on the history books and every single season NBA record. What followed was the 73-win Golden State Warriors.

Bogut sat down with The Pick and Roll to talk about his time with the Warriors. The conversation started with Bogut explaining what it was like playing on a team that won an NBA record 73 games and took the sporting world by storm.

“It was a circus. We just kept winning and with every road trip we went on the attention kept getting bigger and bigger. There were more people in the hotels, there was more media and it just snowballed into this huge circus.”

While Golden State couldn’t punctuate their record-breaking season with a championship, they arguably achieved something more intangible. The Dubs captured the hearts and minds of NBA diehards and casual sporting onlookers alike. In a millennial age where attention spans come and go in the form of a 10-second Snapchat filter, the absurdity of what Bogut helped accomplish cannot be understated.

“We’d have four or five thousand fans in arenas 90 minutes before the game watching Steph warm up,” Bogut noted. “It was really really crazy. It was something you will always remember.”

“It was disappointing we couldn’t finish it off with a win in game 5 or 6. It went to game 7 and we lost, that’s the reality of sport. There are huge swings in a seven-game series and we lived that.

“But it was still something you will always remember. Being part of it, that whole two-year process.”

The hiring of Steve Kerr in 2014 heralded in that “two-year process” Bogut referenced, although the roots of Golden State’s magical quest lay in the ashes of Mark Jackson’s tenure.

“I think the beauty of it for me, and for most of the guys involved with the Warriors, was that when we all first got there it wasn’t anywhere near like it is now. It was a 20 or 30 win team.

“Then we go out and draft Draymond, Harrison and Festus and 47 games. Then we grinded and built our way up to winning a championship. We didn’t just go out and sign four or five of the best players and win that way. It was more of a beauty I think with most of those guys, they respected each other for it and did it all together.”

But how did Golden State win 73 games?

The Warriors had talent and worked hard, but that alone doesn’t make them special. Every LeBron James led side since 2011 has had ample talent, and the self-dubbed King works harder than anyone in basketball. Shaq and Kobe were as talented as any duo in league history. The 2008 Celtics roster was loaded with Hall of Fame characters renowned for their pursuit of perfection. None of these squads even approached 70 wins in one season.

As for the Warriors, they were allegedly just a collection of NBA question marks when their roller coaster began trending upwards. Steph Curry was written off as an injury-plagued red flag. Klay Thompson wasn’t athletic enough to become an All-Star. Draymond Green was a tweener in every negative sense of the word. Shaun Livingston was Inspector Gadget, the bionic man. Bogut was Andrew Bogus according to our friends at ESPN. And so on goes the mainstream narrative.

This collection of young men were all written off at one point in their professional journey, but maybe that was the secret. Maybe this group found solace in their quest for heights that surpassed the reputation of all involved.

According to Bogut, the secret sauce for Golden State was a deep seeded bond formed from years of growing together.

I think we had guys who were very demanding of each other on a daily basis, whether we had a game or not. Guys just wanted to win every game.

“We rested guys when they were hurt, whether it was Steph, Klay or whoever it was, but we always made a staple of never making that as an excuse. We’d just try and win the game, and we did that. Once we got rolling it was so automatic. It was grinding at the same time but it just became like a wheel that was part of a well-oiled machine. It just kept going, we’d just go to the next city and the next city.”

Listening to Bogut explain the synchronicity of the Warriors, is a stark reminder of the stratospheric apex they reached last season. It was surely a level of nirvana us mere mortals cannot fully appreciate.

Bogut smiled and clicked his fingers, while explaining the impulsive chemistry that decimated the NBA. It was the same way I’d describe a mundane gym workout or something so instinctive it couldn’t possibly be challenging. The simplicity of Bogut’s explanation makes you forget, for just a moment, that NBA basketball is the subject matter.

“Once we got used to that routine and that rhythm, we wanted to keep doing it because when we lost a game we were pissed. We’d win 20 games, lose the 21st and guys were pissed, and it was hell to be around.

“Guys were almost ready to fight at practice, guys were bitching on the bus and plane and that’s what you want. In the next game up after a loss, we’d end up smashing who ever we played. That’s kind of the mindset that you want and we had that.”

The Warriors mindset was viscous and their gaudy firepower harnessed it on their road to greatness. The arsenal at Kerr’s disposal was then amplified with the acquisition of Kevin Durant last July. While this move represented a coup for the franchise, it also signaled the end of Bogut’s tenure with Golden State, who was promptly given a one-way ticket to Dallas to clear cap space for Durant.

Despite having every reason to be aggrieved with being looked over and virtually kicked off the Warriors, Bogut is far from bitter. Rather, he has been understating of the realities of life in the NBA. Bogut told last year, “If I'm the GM, I do the same deal. That's just the reality of the business.”

There’s that trademark self-awareness on display again. The move away from Golden State may have removed Bogut from the NBA’s ultimate contender, but it doesn’t signify the end of his American expedition.

Bogut's next NBA contract is a fait accompli this July, and one figures the allure of a certain tournament in Tokyo could be the carrot to continue this journey for another few years. While future riches, and possible successes, await this Australian big man, it is hard to imagine anything surpassing his final 24 months with the Dubs.

The 2014-15 Golden State Warriors won an NBA championship. The 2015-16 Golden State Warriors may be the greatest NBA team of all time. Andrew Bogut was central to both. Not a bad circus show at all.