<
>

What Andrew Bogut brings to Lakers: 'I have seen everything'

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Andrew Bogut walks over to a couple of chairs on the side of one of the Los Angeles Lakers' new sparkling practice courts and takes a seat.

"Come sit in my office," he says invitingly.

As Bogut sits down, you almost expect to hear him let out a groan as his 7-foot, 260-pound frame takes a rest. Bogut turns 33 in November. He is the oldest player on a revamped Lakers training camp roster that has 16 players who were born in 1992 or later, and Bogut's body might feel like it's closer to 63.

Bogut's 12-year career has been ravaged by injuries, most notably three "high-impact, car-accident-type injuries" to his elbow and wrist, ankle and leg. He points to each major injury he has had on his body and explains the unusual -- and perhaps unlucky -- circumstances that led to each broken bone or torn ligament.

He knows what many might call him: injury-prone. But, Bogut asks, how was he supposed to prevent these injuries?

"I get my legs taken out from under me, on a dunk, fall on my elbow and break my elbow," he says. "How do I train for that? How do I condition for that? A guy shoots a floater and chases that floater down and undercuts me -- Kyle Lowry -- and I fall on his foot and snap my ankle. How do I train against that? How do I train against getting hit in the leg?

"The elbow and wrist was the same injury, Amar'e [Stoudemire] gave me a little push, and I dunked [but] couldn't hang on [to the rim]. What do I do in the offseason? Practice swinging on the rim? So that is why it frustrates me at times about having that label, but at the same time, I understand it. I have been hurt a lot, but I have always bounced back from my injuries and generally came back and played pretty good."

So here is Bogut, returning from yet another bone-shattering injury. This time, the center is making his way back from an unlucky broken leg suffered seconds into his Cleveland Cavaliers debut, after a March trade from the Dallas Mavericks, when he ran out to defend a potential jump shot and collided with another player.

Some teams seem to have doubted that Bogut can still contribute after not signing him in free agency. But Lakers president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka picked up Bogut before camp as a potential defender, enforcer and mentor in the paint.

The Lakers' future belongs to the past two No. 2 overall picks, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. But Johnson is hoping the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft can help a young team with his past experiences and maybe Bogut's pain can be the Lakers' gain.

"I have been through pretty much everything in this league, especially injury-wise, and been on championship teams, winningest teams, crappiest teams, teams with a lot of turnovers," Bogut says. "I have seen everything."

"You don't want to be out there handing out your resume," he said of the younger Lakers perhaps not knowing much about his career. "When I was in my prime, all these kids were probably still in junior high or 9 or 10 years old."

Bogut wants to help tutor the young Lakers on the crafts of the trade and dealing with injuries while providing any valuable minutes he can. Already, Bogut has helped one of the Lakers young pups, 20-year-old center Ivica Zubac.

Zubac is Croatian, and Bogut, who was born and raised in Australia, is of Croatian descent. The two talk in Croatian "like 95 percent of the time," and Bogut has helped Zubac gain a better understanding of what head coach Luke Walton is looking for.

"He already has helped me a lot," a clearly delighted Zubac says. "His parents are Croatian, and he spends every summer in Croatia, so we speak fluently. ... It's great. I have somebody who understands me finally. It's so much easier, and sometimes it's hard to catch up in English when Coach is trying to explain something. To have [Bogut] here and help me since I'm Croatian, it really means a lot to me."

Zubac rates Bogut's Croatian as a "9 out of 10" and points out that his grammar might be a bit broken. Of course, Bogut will take broken grammar over a broken bone any time.

As Bogut enters the final chapter of his career, he is excited about not only the young cast around him in Los Angeles but also the Australian talent around the NBA as well, led by last year's No. 1 pick Ben Simmons, who will make his debut this season in Philadelphia after missing all of last season due to injury.

"Not just Ben, there's a lot of [Australian] guys," Bogut says. "Dante Exum, it is a big year for him. Joe Ingles just signed a big deal. [Matthew] Dellavedova is obviously doing his thing. Patty [Mills] just signed a big deal. [Aron] Baynes just signed in Boston and has a chance for a championship.

"Bennie obviously had an injury last year and had a frustrating year, and everyone is excited to see what he can do. We have a very good group of guys coming through. This generation is arguably the best generation that Australian basketball has ever had."

Bogut, however, is still hanging around. He says he still has "good basketball" left in him, and he isn't bitter about all the basketball that he has been robbed of by injuries.

"I mean, I've made $100 million-plus and play in the best league in the world and won a championship and played in numerous Olympics," Bogut says. "If that is unlucky, then a lot of people are very, very unlucky. I don't look at it that way. I could have had some more bounces go my way with those injuries, but I also could not be playing in the NBA. I could be playing in Europe or Australian league. I've been very, very lucky."