When the Warriors won Games 5 and 6 of the NBA Finals with zero contribution from Andrew Bogut, some may have wondered if the big man was being phased out.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who removed Bogut from the starting lineup after the first three games of The Finals, consistently has contended that was not the case.
And on Tuesday in Wellington, New Zealand, Bogut performed at a level that suggests he still has game.
The 7-foot center finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots to lead Australia to an 89-79 win over New Zealand in a FIBA Oceana qualifying game that clinched the Aussies’ bid for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
And Bogut did this while fighting through same nagging back soreness that might be making the Warriors a bit nervous.
"The body felt good," Bogut told reporters. "I was battling a few little things but if you take enough pills and things you end up getting there. It worked out all right. I felt pretty good out there. Tomorrow morning won't be as good but we got the job done and we're going to the Olympics."
"I was good enough to play, and you never want to use injury as excuse. Obviously I didn't make the first flight as I was stuck in bed with an ice pack. But it responded pretty well, I got a lot of help from physios and masseuses, and I was satisfied I could get on the plane the next day and come out.
"I was a little tired but I felt all right."
“It definitely fires up the boys because he’s putting his body on the line,” said Aussie teammate Matthew Dellavedova, also member of the Cleveland team the Warriors vanquished in The Finals. “Especially early on, getting a few buckets and blocks and to start the second half the way he did, gave us an emotional boost."
Kerr said Bogut remains his starting center, that he benched the big man for strategic reasons specific to the Cavaliers in The Finals. Bogut started the first three games of the series but played only two minutes over the final three games, as the Warriors won all three with Draymond Green starting and played the bulk of the minutes at center.
While the Warriors may be pleased by Bogut’s performance, they surely are worried about his tender back, which they hope will recover before training came opens next month.