Gone in 58 seconds: Bogut's injury roils Cavs' outlook

CLEVELAND -- In a Cleveland minute, everything can change.

Monday was supposed to be a celebration of sorts for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The last piece to their title defense was finally delivered in the form of the 7-foot Andrew Bogut. Just like Cleveland found Deron Williams as an even better backup point guard to Kyrie Irving than the guy they lost in Matthew Dellavedova, the Cavs captured Bogut from a sea of other contenders (Boston, San Antonio and Houston) and found a true big behind Tristan Thompson.

Things were coming together so well that the Cavs took a close loss to the Celtics, the team nipping at their heels in the Eastern Conference standings, in stride. They might have lost the battle with the C's, but they won the war in acquiring Bogut, or so they thought. A couple of nights later, they hit the most 3s in NBA history in a single game with 25 against the Atlanta Hawks, and some players had the audacity to suggest they would have hit 30 had J.R. Smith and Kevin Love been healthy.

The Cavs could seemingly do no wrong. Even when they sat both Irving and LeBron James to rest on Saturday and took a blowout loss to the Miami Heat on the chin, the Phoenix Suns shocked the Celtics with a miracle comeback on Sunday, canceling out any sting from that decision to rest.

Bogut's body wasn't ready to celebrate, however. Just 58 seconds of playing time into only his second appearance since Jan. 29, the 32-year-old sprung out from the paint to the perimeter to try to close out on Heat forward Okaro White and his left shin crashed into White's left knee.

The result? A fractured tibia. The recovery period? Even conservative estimates based on other NBA players who have suffered that injury are counted in months, rather than weeks. The game? A 106-98 loss to the Heat for the Cavs' third defeat in the past four games.

"It's very deflating," James said. "It's a tough moment. We all were excited about the acquisition, you know, bring him in here. Him getting some games under his belt before the playoffs, so hopefully we can hope for the best with the MRI or whatever the case may be, but uh, it's a tough one. Not only obviously for him, first of all, but then for our ballclub."

It's a ballclub that still has enough, no doubt. Even if Bogut had stayed healthy, there's no guarantee he would have seen anything more than situational minutes. Sure, against big bodies such as Jonas Valanciunas of Toronto and Marcin Gortat of Washington and even down the line, should it happen, Zaza Pachulia of Golden State, Bogut would have found playing time. But let's not forget that Timofey Mozgov had eight DNP-CDs in the Cavs' run to the title last season against just three playoff games when he played 10 minutes or more.

Bogut was an insurance policy. And now, likely, the Cavs will have to purchase an insurance policy for the insurance policy by waiving Bogut, eating the near $1 million cost his luxury tax-laden salary creates and finding another big man to invest $1 million into, just in case.

"It happened so quick," Irving said of the Cavs' misfortune. "Adversity, it can come in waves. It can come just at the moment, and that's what happened with Bogut."

Ironically, it was Bogut's season-ending injury in Game 5 of the NBA Finals in June that helped Cleveland pull off a comeback for the ages from down 3-1 to beat the Warriors.

This year, it's a Bogut injury that is threatening the feasibility of back-to-back titles.

But as one team source lamented to ESPN, greater than the Bogut loss is the Cavs' lack of focus when it comes to making stops.

"If we don't start to get serious on the defensive end, none of this will matter much," the source said.

This current Cavs team happens to be one that thrives under adversity. Two seasons ago, they took the Warriors to Game 6, despite Love and Irving going down with injuries. Last season, they withstood coach David Blatt's midseason dismissal to go on to win it all.

While they've managed to navigate rain clouds in the past, that doesn't mean they don't appreciate sunny skies when they come. Bogut was just not the bearer of good news they had hoped for.

"With this group, we still have a lot more to learn about one another, about the energy that we have to play at every single night," Irving said. "We'll do it. That's the great part about having other great pieces that are ready to step in."

At the end of the night, James stood by his locker getting dressed and muttered in disbelief to himself.

"He didn't even get a minute," James said. "He didn't even get a minute."

And everything changed in Cleveland.