Kings Bounty: Bogut agrees to NBL swansong

Andrew Bogut, already one of the most accomplished Australian basketballers, by signing with the Sydney Kings may well play a part in something larger. The rise back to prominence of the NBL.

In perhaps the biggest signing in the 40-year history of the NBL, the Sydney Kings announced on Tuesday that they had agreed to terms with 2005 NBA Number One Draft Pick Andrew Bogut. In a stunning coup for the Kings and for Australian Basketball fans, despite receiving offers to continue his career in the NBA, the Boomers centre has committed to Sydney for the next two seasons without any get-out clause for a return to the US or to take up a big money European offer.

Australian fans get to see on a weekly basis, all over the country, a bona fide NBA superstar.

You can’t exaggerate what he’s done. He’s won a championship in the NBA playing in the best team (Golden State Warriors) on the planet — (played) a pivotal role in the best team on the planet and that was only 18 months ago.

Had he not injured himself he’d be with the (Cleveland) Cavs right now. You just can’t over exaggerate the ability, the skill and the experience that he brings.

Vince Crivelli, Melbourne United CEO – Herald Sun 23.04.18

It is another massive endorsement of the direction NBL Owner Larry Kestelman is taking the League. When the Dodo founder purchased a controlling stake in the competition in 2015 the idea that a player of Bogut’s calibre would make this kind of decision was pie in the sky thinking. This was not lost on Bogut as explained his decision to join the Kings on Tuesday. “The NBL has put themselves in a position thanks to Larry and all the people involved,” he said. “Not just from a financial component, but just from the way the league was run. It was borderline bush league at times and not something that I’d be comfortable to put my name next to, but I’m comfortable now that there are enough good business people running clubs and Larry doing things right.”

For the subject of Bogut’s praise, Larry Kestelman, he believe’s the big man’s signing is just the beginning. “This (Bogut) is the first one of many,” Kestelman told The Daily Telegraph. “I truly believe that our Australian guys want to finish their careers in Australia in front of their fans and families to build a legacy past the actual playing of the game.” Kestelman indicated that it was in this off-court capacity that the NBL offered another dimension for Australian NBA stars looking for a return home. “We also want them to come back and make a legacy in business as well,” Kestelman said. “It is my job to make sure that we build a home for them to be able to come back and proud of.”

This is a transformational signing for our club and, I believe, for our league.

Jeff Van Groningen – Sydney Kings Managing Director

What Bogut’s presence brings from an interest standpoint is undoubted, one look at the size of the media contingent present at his unveiling at Qudos Bank Arena illustrates that, but what can he provide the Kings on the court. With the Sydney club already having assembled a squad containing two of the last three NBL MVP’s and with space to add two imports, expectations are high. As a result, the Kings odds for winning the 2018/19 have been slashed with the team now considered favourites to claim their first title since 2005. Bogut doesn’t shy away from these expectations. “I’m here to win games,” he told the assembled press. “This isn’t an exercise where I am here to sell tickets, we want to win games.”

I cant be more happy being here with the great man himself – Andrew Gaze.

Andrew Bogut 24.04.18

While most of Australia, perhaps with the exception of those involved with Melbourne United, rejoiced in Bogut’s signing, there was one man happier than most. Sitting next to the former Golden State Warrior throughout the press conference on Tuesday, Kings Coach Andrew Gaze looked the cat who caught the canary. “It’s a landmark day for the Sydney Kings,” a beaming Gaze announced. Thankful to the NBL for their hard work in making the League a suitable destination for the 2011 NBA Blocks Leader, he was excited for the opportunity that befell him and his team to provide world-class entertainment to Australian Basketball fans. In the last year of his three year deal as coach of the club, Gaze knows the pressure that rests on his shoulders but it didn’t stop him from delivering perhaps the line of the day when he quipped, ‘hopefully we don’t stuff it up’.

Not shy in announcing his intention to win, Bogut was keen to temper expectations of him being a one-man statistical behemoth. “Everyone is going to expect 20/20 every night, but let’s just tone that down a little bit,” he said. “I expect to still put up numbers, but I’m here to change this club’s culturally and to change to things that have hurt the club in the past. I think if your best player can buy in and be good bloke off the court and do what he says he is going to do and fulfil his role. If I’m selfless and fulfil my role, then everyone trickling down from me has no excuse not to be.”

What about the injuries that have plagued his 13 years in the NBA, you ask? If his conversation with Foxsports is anything to go by don’t bring it up to the man himself. “If I’m on the court and I tweak my hamstring or hurt my quad or calf, that’s my conditioning’s fault. I’ve never had those types of injuries. Literally, when I do something, it’s a ‘car accident’ type injury, perfect angle, bone break.”

What scars have 13 years of these ‘car accident’ type injuries left on the 33-year-old’s hulking frame? “I‘ve learned to live with it,” Bogut said. “My body feels good, considering I’ve been told twice that I wouldn’t play again, after certain injuries. I’ve bounced back from all of them.” Rather than see his misfortune as negative he sees his ability to get back each time as a source of pride. “I’ve been hurt a lot, but I’ve bounced back and played at a high level from every one of those f***in’ things. It’s something I pride myself on.”

Stay tuned for more announcements.

Larry Kestelman 24.04.18

With an NBA Number One Draft Pick amongst its number next season, there is a palpable sense of excitement about what the future lies in store for the NBL. Already investigating ways to bring the best and brightest outside of the NBA to the competition it is a watershed day. There is a mountain of work still ahead of the NBL but yet again we are shown that basketball in this country may well be riding the kind of wave that may return it to the glory days of the 1990’s.


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