Andrew Bogut hasn’t been able to practice with Los Angeles since he was signed by the Lakers eight days ago, but it’s not due to any injury.
It seems Bogut’s VISA is what’s keeping him on the sidelines this time. The process of acquiring a specific work visa required by foreign professional athletes takes about five to seven business days and Bogut and the Lakers are still awaiting his paperwork.
This is a normal process for foreign players and Bogut, who suffered an injury to his leg in the first minute of his first game with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, is healthy and excited about playing his first pre-season game for his new team.
Bogut says he has fully recovered from a broken leg he suffered less than a minute into his debut last season with Cleveland Cavaliers and is ready to add veteran leadership to the young developing Lakers squad. The Lakers’ first pre-season game is against Minnesota Timberwolves on September 30 and their regular season opener is a local match-up with the LA Clippers on October 19, Bogut is expected to be a part of both.
“I’m fully cleared,” Bogut said. “I’ve been working out the last six weeks. The only thing I haven’t really done is full contact five-on-five.” said Bogut during NBA Media Day.
The Australian Boomers big man said he had been in contract talks with two other NBA teams, thought to be Minnesota and Cleveland, but when they failed to commit and a familiar voice in Lakers coach Luke Walton called him last week he signed with straight away.
“The other two teams were pitter-pattering their feet,” Bogut told reporters. “There wasn’t too much traction going on there.
“They were hanging me out to dry a little bit to wait and Luke called and said they had an offer for me.”
Walton, who coached Bogut at the championship-winning Golden State Warriors, has said he is keen to add 213-centimetre-tall Bogut’s shot blocking, screens and defensive muscle to his young Lakers team.
Bogut who at 32 years of age will be the oldest player on the Lakers’ roster and at this stage his contract only guarantees him a training camp invitation. With his relationship with Walton, however, it’s highly unlikely he will not be signed in the team’s final roster spot before season tip-off.
Another factor which makes it highly likely Bogut takes the court in the Lakers opening game on October 19th is that that team’s starting centre Brook Lopez is currently struggling with a back injury of his own.
Lopez played down the severity of his injury when questioned about his status but was clearly excited about the opportunity of playing alongside Bogut.
“I’d definitely rather play with Andrew Bogut than play against him. He’d beat me up normally. But it’s very cool having him on the team.” Lopez said.
“Obviously, championship pedigree. He knows what it takes to win and he can help teach myself and other young guys as well. That’s so important to have in this situation.”
Bogut isn’t expected to be the same impact player on the offensive side for the Lakers as he was in 2009-10 with Milwaukee when he scored 15.9 points per game and was a member of the All-NBA Third team but he is expected to provide plenty of the defensive end.
Bogut never quite fit in with the Dallas Mavericks last season, struggling to play alongside veteran Dirk Nowitzki. While limited minutes last season saw his offensive production drop considerably (he averaged 2.9 points a night in 27 games for Dallas) he still managed to haul in a handy 8.4 rebounds per game in limited minutes.
As recently as 2015 Bogut was a member of the NBA’s Second Team All-Defense so he still has much to offer the Lakers this season.
The 7’0″ big man will be a productive piece of the frontcourt rotation as a rim protector and someone who can clean up the glass. What’s more, he can serve as a veteran leader who understands how to play in critical, pressure-laden contests having played in two NBA Finals series and winning the NBA Championship with Golden State in 2015.