Andrew Bogut Working His Way Back to 100 Percent
That's what you do when you've made just two of your past 12 free-throw attempts.
Not that the Bucks center ever was Mark Price, having entered the season as a 60.1-percent career marksman. But his percentage this season has dropped to a Chris Dudley-like 46.3.
With Bogut having returned from a season-ending injury suffered last April, when he suffered a broken hand, dislocated elbow and sprained wrist on his right arm after an ugly fall against Phoenix, there's been little effect with his defense. Bogut is averaging 10.9 rebounds and 2.67 blocks, both in line to be career bests.
His offense is another story. Aside from Bogut's foul shooting being foul, he's averaging 11.6 points, on pace to be the lowest since his rookie campaign of 2005-06, while shooting 48.0 percent. Bogut was a 53.1-percent career field-goal shooter entering the season.
"I don't feel 100 percent,'' Bogut said in an interview with FanHouse. "My arm's still giving me a bit of trouble, especially shooting. Offensively, my right hand is giving me trouble at the moment, especially with free throws. I'm really struggling ... Otherwise, it's not caused me a whole lot of problems other than just trying to work to get into the groove shooting.''
Although the Bucks are just 5-8 after being picked by some to win the Central Division, they can't complain too much. Guards John Salmons and Corey Maggette have been slow rounding into form following ankle injuries, and some projected Bogut might not be back until December.
But those who believed that must not know Bogut's work ethic. He got much of it in his native Australia from his father, Michael, a mechanic known for having never missed a day of work.
Bogut had to miss some work after he was inadvertently clipped from behind by Amar'e Stoudemire, now with New York, on a breakaway April 3. Bogut, who has no ill feelings toward Stoudemire, hung on the rim before crashing to the floor.
"Just the season flashing before my eyes,'' Bogut said of the fall, which he couldn't avoid seeing replays of during the summer when home in Melbourne. "I didn't have a choice (but to keep seeing it). All of the programs back home and stuff, they always show it.''
If Bogut hadn't have gotten hurt, many believe the Bucks' summer vacation would have started later. They lost Game 7 of an Eastern Conference first-round series to reeling Atlanta, one Milwaukee easily could have won with Bogut.
"People like to think that if I was there we would have won the series,'' said Bogut, who averaged 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.54 blocks in 2009-10, by far his best NBA season. "It was just frustrating that I couldn't be out there. I knew I could help us.''
Bogut underwent a rigorous rehabilitation program during the offseason, determined to be ready for the opener. He made it even though he wasn't close to full strength.
"At the start of the season, I was way worse than I am now,'' Bogut said. "I was probably 70 percent. It was really, really bad. The pain level was bad. I had to monitor my minutes on the practice floor ... I had to miss a couple of exhibition games. It was just a matter of being smart with it.''
There have been no complaints about the rebounding by Bogut, who pulled down 15 in his first game back. He recently had outings of 17 and 18, and has averaged 13.3 in his last four.
It's those darn free throws, though, that have been far from free.
"Free throws have been a real chink in my armor at the moment,'' Bogut said. "But I think I can be one of the best rebounders in the league night in and night out.''
After all, that's what centers are supposed to do.
If Bogut can continue grabbing boards and blocking shots, while improving his offense, teammate Drew Gooden believes he could be an All-Star in February. Gooden calls Bogut the second-best center in the East after Orlando's Dwight Howard.
"You got to mention him in that category right now. I don't really see Al Horford as a center,'' Gooden said of the Hawks starting center who made the All-Star Game last season and is really a power forward. "So, yeah, you got to put him up there. That would be huge (if Bogut could make the All-Star Game).''
The Bucks no doubt also will have to improve their record for that to happen. They had won three straight to get to .500 before dropping their past three.
No-nonsense Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles shrugs off that Bogut's arm problems remain an issue. But Skiles does say something must change.
"I don't really think the injury has anything to do with it,'' Skiles said. "He's got to continue to work on his conditioning. He missed a lot of (conditioning opportunities) this summer. A lot of valuable time ... Some of it is just continuing to play him minutes in a game and try to find his comfort level.''
Skiles said Bogut has been "great defensively and shot blocking.'' But he knows quite well he's "struggled a bit'' on offense.
Bogut no doubt hasn't seen the last of the ball machine at the Bucks' practice facility.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@christomasson