Bogut, NBA players need to know their limits

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Michael Hunt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
— It is unclear why Andrew Bogut has never been altogether healthy since his rookie season six years ago, but there are signposts.

Bogut’s last two mishaps—the horrific elbow injury of late 2009-’10 that virtually rendered last season ineffective as well and the broken ankle that will probably keep him out for the rest of this year—were suffered during aggressive moments, such as going hard for a blocked shot.

It is almost impossible to hold aggressive play against a professional athlete, especially in a guaranteed-contract sport that occasionally encourages cruise-control behavior. Bogut usually throws his body around with abandon for a 7-foot center, maybe too recklessly at times given that he doesn’t have the grace or agility of a smaller player.

He isn’t a complete klutz, but he isn’t Clyde Drexler, either. Knowing your limits is always good because, bottom line, the Bucks are again without the services of a guy they paid $60 million not long after they made him the first pick in the 2005 draft.

Also, NBA big guys, with the notable exception of fitness freak Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, are historically injury prone from the beating the league exacts. There are many examples, but for brevity’s sake, let’s leave it at notable medical cases Sam Bowie and Bill Walton.

The NBA season is long enough, too long if you ask me, and its physical toll is immense, especially on large bodies. With exhibitions, a team that goes deep into the playoffs can exceed 100 games. And that’s not to take into account all the international play that is added to the workload.

As the NBA continues its global arc, more of its players are involved in the Olympics and world competition. Bogut has always been an enthusiastic member of Team Australia, participating since age 19 in the Athens and Beijing Games as well as all the practice and lead-up games that accompany the Olympics.

Add all that to a grueling NBA schedule, and it’s not hard to see Mark Cuban’s point.

The often-fined, often-outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks made sense recently when he said what many NBA owners would like to say but won’t because they are not Mark Cuban.

“It’s just the epitome of stupidity that we would allow ourselves to be used so other corporations (the Olympics) can make tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars,” Cuban told ESPN. “There’s some guys sitting at the Olympic headquarters going, ‘Those dumb-(behinds), we’re taking all their best guys for nothing.’ “

Cuban has a lot of money invested in Dirk Nowitzki and cringes each time he goes to play for Team Germany. It’s the same concern NBA owners have for their American players as well.

The original Dream Team was pretty cool, but the concept has grown a little stale since the ’92 Barcelona Games. Having NBA players in the Olympics has lost its appeal on a number of levels, including the reluctance of the best Americans to participate anymore. But as a business concern, Cuban is right when he points out the absurdity of providing free labor to a multibillion-dollar operation like the Olympics.

Not that David Stern would hear of the NBA getting out of the Olympics business.

“The commissioner’s office won’t open it up to discussion,” Cuban said. “They just make a unilateral call. They take calls about it, but won’t put it up for a vote. Hopefully, I can get him to move it to a vote at some point.”

No one should hold their breath.

If you choose to look at the Olympics as a higher calling, fine. And I’m not blaming all of Bogut’s physical problems on his extended workload from international play. But if you’re Herb Kohl and signing $60 million worth of checks and wondering why your franchise player is once again not available at a time when the Bucks could really use him, it’s probably worth a referendum at some point down the line.

Last updated: 7:43 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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