Bogut big among bigs

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

How a seven-footer gets overlooked speaks to the team's small market.

How a presence in the paint goes unnoticed reveals the low profile that surrounds him.

But the days of ignoring and dismissing Andrew Bogut are becoming a thing of the past, at least based on the present state of his game and the emergence of the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that is as hot as any outside of the red-hot Dallas Mavericks.

When the Bucks made Bogut the first overall pick in 2005, a draft class that is defined by point guards Chris Paul and Deron Williams, the comparisons with fellow Aussie Luc Longley came fast and furious.

At first they were humorous, two bigs from Down Under who weren't really known for their athleticism.

Bogut has distanced himself so far from Longley that it isn't worth anyone's time to even discuss any parallel.

Bogut now is threatening to keep company with the elite.

For once in his career, Bogut isn't being plagued by back woes.

It often has been said that it takes time for bigs to develop and Bogut bears it out.

He has a staunch supporter in coach Scott Skiles and a point guard in rookie Brandon Jennings, who is more inclined to look inside to Bogut than heave perimeter jumpers early in the shot clock.

A few eyebrows were raised when Washington Wizards head coach Flip Saunders was asked to assess Bogut when the teams hooked up in a recent home-and-home set.

"Maybe the best centre in the Eastern Conference," Saunders said.

Flip wasn't being flippant and neither was he flippin' crazy because there's some merit in his words.

Bogut isn't quite in Dwight Howard's neighbourhood, but he is inching closer because Bogut's game continues to evolve and improve.

The more the Bucks make noise in the East, including their late-game lock-down of the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, the more people will come to appreciate Bogut and the surging Bucks.

Milwaukee has won 10 of its past 11 games; Bogut has recorded at least one block in a franchise-record 28 consecutive games; in Milwaukee's past 11 games, Bogut has averaged 3.8 rejections.

Out of nowhere have emerged the Bucks, who hold down the No. 5 seed in the East and are playing the style of basketball teams need to sustain success.

With Bogut, Milwaukee plays an inside/outside game.

Skiles-coached teams always defend and seldom take possessions off. The trade-deadline deal for John Salmons has given Milwaukee a scorer and creator.

Ersan Ilyasova is long and has been a lot more consistent than his more famous Turkish-born baller in Hedo Turkoglu.

A scout was asked to chime in on this year's surprise teams.

"People would probably say Oklahoma City or Memphis, but it's Milwaukee for me. They weren't picked very high in general after losing (Richard) Jefferson, (Charlie) Villanueva and (Ramon) Sessions and then they lost Michael Redd on top of that. Now they're in the playoffs.

"The two big reasons are Bogut is playing at a really high level -- more so than ever, it's his team -- and Scott Skiles is a helluva coach. Bogut has finally found a coach that believes in him and that he believes in and it's working for him. This used to be Michael Redd's team, but he's taken control of that team and is starting to look dominant like people thought he could when he came out of college"

Maybe if the they were playing in a bigger market, there would be more of a buzz with these Bucks.

Maybe if Bogut were more self-promotional than selfless, he would get more exposure.

His opponents have taken notice.

"I think he's the toughest matchup I've had all season," Boston's Kendrick Perkins said following Milwaukee's 86-84 win, in which Bogut had 25 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks. "He's playing well.''

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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