The Golden State Warriors have reached the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time since losing to the Jazz in 2007.
It took Andrew Bogut even longer to get here.
The former University of Utah center had never won a playoff series until the No. 6-seeded Warriors beat Denver in six games. Beginning tonight, he’ll have a prominent role as Golden State meets San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals.
Bogut posted 14 points, 21 rebounds and four blocked shots in the Warriors’ Game 6 victory over Denver, a career milestone in his eighth season after being the NBA’s No. 1 overall pick by Milwaukee. The Bucks made the playoffs in his rookie season. But that series vs. Detroit marked Bogut’s only postseason experience until this year — partly because he was injured near the end of the 2009-10 season, when he was playing very well.
Bogut was traded to Golden State last season while still recovering from a severe ankle injury, and the comeback process continued well into this season. He missed 50 games and, when he finally did get into the lineup, the Warriors appeared better without him.
One such example was a 115-101 loss to the Jazz in February, when Bogut went scoreless in 15 minutes and was ineffective defensively against Al Jefferson, who finished with 24 points. In April, Bogut had only two points (to Jefferson’s 19) in 23 minutes as the Warriors lost to the Jazz in Oakland.
But Bogut was vital in the series against Denver, averaging 8.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 28 minutes.
It has been a long, difficult climb for Bogut to reach this stage of the playoffs, but the matchup with Tim Duncan and the Spurs is a great opportunity for him. In many ways, his pro career has paralleled Alex Smith’s, after the ex-Ute quarterback also was drafted No. 1 overall in 2005. Smith played for bad teams and was bothered by injuries until breaking through by leading San Francisco to the NFC championship game in the 2011 season.
Like Smith, Bogut deserves to have good things happen for him. And the Warriors are just dangerous enough to make this series with San Antonio intriguing.