Andrew Bogut joins Sydney Kings, as Australia hopes other NBA players will follow

Yahoo Sports
Andrew Bogut played in the Olympics for Australia’s national team in 2004, 2008 and 2016. He was injured in 2012. (AP)
Andrew Bogut played in the Olympics for Australia’s national team in 2004, 2008 and 2016. He was injured in 2012. (AP)

After being waived by the Los Angeles Lakers in January, former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Bogut spent more than three months in the NBA unemployment line, but once the native Australian turned his focus home to his home country’s National Basketball League, the job offers came early and often.

Twenty minutes after tweeting early Sunday, “Are there any roster spots left the upcoming NBL season? Asking for a friend?” the Sydney Kings announced plans to sign the 33-year-old center:

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Bogut soon confirmed those plans on Twitter. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, he spurned his hometown Melbourne United to join the rival Kings “at the 11th hour,” and the signing came as such a surprise that it was still being held up “for review and processing” at the NBL front office a day later.

Bogut became the first Australian to be selected No. 1 overall in the NBA draft when the Milwaukee Bucks took him in 2005. He spent seven seasons there before being traded in 2012 to Golden State, where he emerged as the rim-protecting center of the Warriors’ successful 2015 championship run.

Since a knee injury in Game 5 of the 2016 Finals cost him the rest of Golden State’s seven-game series loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Bogut never quite found his NBA footing again. He dubbed the league “two-faced” and “fake” after the Warriors dumped him on the Dallas Mavericks to make room for Kevin Durant in July 2016. He then described the Mavs as a target for bird droppings, earning a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers. He was promptly waived, signing with the Cavs for the 2017 playoff run, only to fracture his tibia one minute into his Cleveland career. And he rejoined former Warriors coach Luke Walton with the Lakers, only to earn his walking papers a few months into his L.A. tenure.

This is to say nothing of his Pizzagate truther-ism.

Prior to this season, Bogut told ESPN that he would like to play “three or four” more seasons in the NBA before making one last run with Australian national teammates Ben Simmons, Joe Ingles, Matthew Dellavedova, Patty Mills, Dante Exum, Aron Baynes and Thon Maker in the 2012 Olympics.

Following his release from the Lakers, Bogut returned to Australia for his grandfather’s funeral and then announced on Twitter that he would remain there to tend to his wife, who was experiencing “a very high-risk pregnancy” with their second child. He said he declined a number of NBA offers, but “I am still working out and staying shape, and will be ready for training camp for the 2018-19 season.”

His plans changed on Sunday, when he announced his intent to join the NBL, which has a schedule that large mirrors the NBA’s season. The Sydney Kings finished second-to-last in the eight-team league this past season, failing to make the four-team playoffs that ran through the end of March.

The NBL has long coveted Bogut, nearly signing him during the NBA’s 2011 lockout, and the league is now hailing his signing as the biggest in Australian basketball history. Kings coach Brian Goorjian hopes Bogut’s return signals a trend for Australians entering the end of their twilights of their careers.

“Andrew’s breaking ground that it’s comfortable to come back and play in your own country — it opens that door and I think a lot of those guys will follow,” Goorjian told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“All these tremendous players are coming out of Australia, we’ve got a lot of great players playing in the NBA.

“We’ve always talked about getting those guys to come back and participate in the league at the right time. You’ve got guys like Joe Ingles, Dellavedova, Aron Baynes who will soon get to a point in their career.

“This opens up the door and gives it credibility.”

After averaging close to a double-double with two assists and a pair of blocks per game for the Bucks and Warriors in his first 11 NBA seasons, Bogut averaged just 2.3 points and 5.9 rebounds in Dallas, Cleveland and L.A. the past two seasons. He has made more than $116 million in his career.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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