It was only a matter of days ago Jackson Russell discussed the prospect of the Cleveland Cavaliers going back-to-back after the acquisition of Andrew Bogut. Cut to midweek as the Boomer attempted to block a shot from Miami Heat forward Okaro White and everything suddenly stopped.
Less than 60 seconds into his career with the champions, Bogut suffered a fractured tibia after scans revealed the extent of the damage caused by the clash of shins. Such was the ferocity of the blow, LeBron James admitted that he heard an audible crack as the big man fell to the floor in agony.
According to the Herald Sun, James appeared flat following the devastating news for the franchise as they compounded the 106-98 defeat with the loss of a key player heading into the playoffs.
“It’s very deflating, it’s a tough moment,” remarked the superstar to the press. “We were all very excited about bringing him here and him getting some games under his belt before the playoffs. We will hope for the best, it’s a tough one especially for him first of all and for the whole club. I heard it (the injury) I heard it break, as soon as the collision happened I heard it break. When I went over to him he said ‘I already knew I heard it crack.’
I don’t remember what we had going to that point but it took the air out the whole building. You could hear it from the fans the moment he went down, we were hoping for the best hoping it was a knee-to-knee or a knee-to-quad, but I heard it so I knew what it was already.”
The 32-year old Melbourne native has decided to return to Australia and rather than have surgery to heal the tibia completely, he has opted for a stint of rehabilitation instead. This indicates that the towering centre wants to rush the process in order to be picked up by another NBA outfit when season 2017/18 begins in earnest as of October, making it a potential fifth club should Cleveland decide to cut him altogether.
While this move out of Ohio would be ruthless, it is consistent with the manner in which sporting organisations operate in the US. Whether it be the NBA, NFL or MLB, players that are surplus to requirements as a result of form, injury or off-field discretion are cast aside as their lucrative multi-million dollar contracts are sifted through the shredding machine.
Speculation has begun about a potential switch to the local NBL competition should the Cavs waive the right to keep him on the roster, but the finances simply don’t add up. To put his wage packet into perspective, Bogut’s $385,000 deal with Cleveland was for the best part of a couple of months of action as he switched from the Dallas Mavericks to be on a cool $1.55m a season.
The National Basketball League will continue to develop and attract bigger sponsorships to grow the investment in the domestic game, yet it is highly unlikely Bogut will feature anytime soon in that respect. The rehab is intended to fast track his standing as one of the premiere tall’s in the NBA, a task that will prove to be an uphill battle given his fitness history.
The devastation was felt beyond Cleveland as many Australians were left frustrated that an icon was cut down only seconds into his time alongside LeBron, Kyrie Irving and the rest of the Cavs stars. However, SB Nation‘s James Dator used this as an excuse to sink the boot into Aussie players to condescend and decry their stature in the league.
“The injury was Australia,” Dator started. “Bad things happen to Australians. It’s part of the country’s DNA.” Pointing to the examples of Ben Simmons and Dante Exum, the writer believes their misfortune somehow comes to represent a nation of 25 million.
“If the American Dream is the promise of prosperity and happiness out of nothing, the Australian dream is the expectation that life is a giant pile of bullshit you try to crawl out of knowing that someone’s waiting to push you back down… Battlers accept their lot and do their best no matter what life throws at them. It’s a phrase borne of disappointment, failed expectations, and missed opportunities.”
Correctly slammed as “putrid,” “awful” and “irrelevant” by observers of the piece, the ignorance does highlight a naivety and arrogance that Australian players are somewhat cursed when it comes to the NBA arena. There is evidence to suggest that the Boomer stars have not entirely fulfilled their potential, but the castigation of them as a whole because of this incident is bottom feeding at it’s worst.
We have had the joy and pleasure of seeing the likes of Bogut lead the Golden State Warriors to a drought-breaking championship in 2015 before our little “battler” Matthew Dellavedova stepped up in the clutch moments of the 2016 Finals to do likewise for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This could have been performed by gifted College graduates who have been in a basketball environment their entire lives, yet these moments were ultimately decided by sportsmen who traveled halfway around the world to upset the establishment and carve their own piece of history.
Follow this up with a Number One Draft pick for Melbourne’s own Ben Simmons that same year by the Philadelphia 76ers, and it is clear that a nation 1/14 the size of the US with an even smaller portion of revenue and resources to invest in the game is in a fairly healthy state.
Fingers crossed for Bogut that he can come back better and stronger in the offseason to shove those words back down Dator’s mouth. Even if that is not the case, he does not need to “dream” of working his way up from St. John’s Regional College in Dandenong to scale the heights of the NBA, because like so many of his compatriots – he’s already achieved it.