Is Andrew Bogut a dirty player?
I’ll admit it is a little unfair to rehash this topic right now, although the past seven days have shown that there is never a right or wrong time to engage discussion. At a time when every token Australian is trying to define what it means to be just that, generalisations are the flavour of the month. So what about that perception which has been held by the NBA community about Australians in the NBA for the longest time?
Matthew Dellavedova topped an anonymous poll last year and was given the inauspicious label of being the dirtiest player in basketball. Bogut wasn’t far behind him, placing third in the poll. Stuck between the two was New Zealand’s Steven Adams. Three Australasian players were (and still likely are) considered the dirtiest names in basketball. This cannot be a coincidence, right?
In a wide-ranging sit down with Bogut, we discussed the subject and asked him why players from this area of the world are often perceived as being dirty within the NBA. (For full disclosure, we spoke to Bogut before his trade to the Philadelphia 76ers)
“It is what it is,” Bogut told The Pick and Roll. “Professional athletes who are playing 82 games, the guys don’t want to get hit in this league and that’s just the way it is.
“You never want to take a guy out and put him out for months or weeks or give him a career-ending injury. But at the same time, I think we play a physical style. We’re not afraid to throw an elbow back, set a hard screen or box someone out hard.”
It’s that physical style which has become a beacon for criticism, with Dellavedova especially during his deep playoff runs with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“In Australia, you are taught one way to play and that’s go in hard and get the loose ball,” Dellavedova told the Herald Sun last year. “The first one on the floor and the person that goes in hardest wins the ball and doesn’t get hurt.”
If you grew up around Australian sporting clubrooms that sentiment will likely sound familiar. Based on my experiences, it’s essentially page one of our sporting bible, but it’s also what got Delly into trouble during the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals. Two incidents, against Kyle Korver and Al Horford respectively, were the catalyst for criticism. Warren conducted a deep dive into the topic last year, and I will leave you to check that out.
Bogut had this to say on Dellavedova's relentless play.
“I think this all started with Delly in the playoffs two years ago where he was taking guys out on box outs. Doing what you’re supposed to do.
“He ends up diving on a loose ball with Kyle Korver. Arguably, you could have said that Korver should have been on the floor first and he wouldn’t have got hurt. But Delly’s instinct is to always dive on the ball and that’s kind of where this whole thing started with all these international guys.”
Bogut’s last comment about instincts is something that bears exploring. Dellavedova’s instinct are to dive on the floor and collect every loose ball. Bogut’s basketball instincts tell him to use his incredible size to box out opponents and emphasise collection of the basketball. To each, it appears these actions are ingrained as selfless winning plays, or to borrow a term from football parlance, the one-percenters needed to secure victory.
So if an action is so instinctively natural that it comes without thought, can it be dirty?
“There are a bunch of American guys who do the same stuff," Bogut noted. “There are a bunch of American guys who do dirtier stuff than [Dellavedova's plays during the 2015 ECF]. It’s just that stigma that we have.
"I really don’t care about it too much, I don’t think Delly does and if you ask Steven Adams and those type of guys, I don’t really think they’d give a s**t too much.”
There is the money quote, that trademark defiance from Bogut. He didn’t mention names and truth be told, there was probably no need to. When speaking to Bogut you get the sense that opinions and actions of others are synonymous with the irrelevant. All that matters are the 48 minutes of basketball in question, and maximising winning plays through hard work.
“At the end of my career, chances are I’m not going to be having dinner with many of these guys on a regular basis so I really don’t care. It is what it is.
“You go out there to compete. You still have good friends in the league but at the same time, most of the guys you play against you’re not going to be best friends with.”
Bogut has previously mentioned he doesn’t care what other people in the Association think about him, the resistance is nothing new. That’s not to say he doesn’t pay attention to what to the NBA community think out loud.
“I’ve always said that if you come out of a game and someone’s pissed off at you, or says this or that, that you have probably done your job.
“If they come out of a game where they say you’re a great bloke and they’d love to have dinner with you, then you probably haven’t done your job.”
Some might say that is the quintessential Australian sporting mindset on display. Do your job, do it well, stay true to those on your side and to hell with the consequences. Heck, I might even agree with that. But there I go generalising again and let's not go there. Get well soon, Andrew.