Keith Bogans on his ‘slap in the face’ from the Chicago Bulls

By Kelly Dwyer

The recent story of Keith Bogans is an odd one. After the Chicago Bulls struck out at attempting to sign a more high-profile shooting guard during the 2010 offseason (from Dwyane Wade to J.J. Redick), the team had to settle on Bogans to start each of the team’s 98 regular-season and playoff games. Bogans was a brilliant defender in his turn at the position, helping Chicago’s league-best defense, but he was startlingly well below-average in all other areas save for his 38 percent 3-point shooting, which was slightly above average.

As it was, Bogans (now with the New Jersey Nets) was a well-respected liability on the team with the NBA’s best record. Worked his tail off, shut down opponents, and worked as the consummate team player but also a, sorry, zero on the offensive end. To Chicago’s chagrin, as Derrick Rose seemed to go at it alone in his team’s playoff loss to Miami. And when it came time for the Bulls to attempt to upgrade, this time with former All-Star Rip Hamilton, the uneasy release of Bogans didn’t exactly warm Keith’s heart. From K.C. Johnson at the Chicago Tribune:

“When I walked in the gym and they told me I wasn’t practicing after they had seen me all week since Monday, that was kind of a slap in the face,” Bogans said. “But it’s cool. I’ve been through a lot in this league but nothing like that. It definitely made me a better man, a better person and a better basketball person.

“I put everything on the line each night. I played with a hurt knee 82 games. I took a pill 82 games to get that (release) in return. Every time I play them for the rest of my career, it will give me something added.”

Before you laugh at that last line, understand that for Bulls fans the idea of an angry Keith Bogans locking down (cleanly, I might add) on Derrick Rose is no laughing matter for us.

K.C. Johnson’s piece goes on to point out that the Bulls not only hung onto Bogans during the opening stages of the NBA’s odd 2011 training camp as they waited for Hamilton’s physical and signing to clear, but they also kept the guy on the active roster so as to potentially turn his small contract into a draft pick via trade. It’s a business, the Bulls have to improve their team, but Bogans doesn’t want to hear that. Especially when he played through pain last season, and was all around the team’s training camp working out and preparing for the season with nary a word from the front office to Bogans about his (to quote Phil Jackson, in discussing the same front office) permanence and impermanence.

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Chicago’s under no obligation to give him daily updates, because they have their business to run. What upsets most Bulls fans, even the ones (like me) that know how important Brian Scalabrine’s presence on that team’s bench and in the locker room remains, is the fact that the team has left Scal’s place on the roster intact while serviceable players like Bogans, Mike James, or even a Tracy McGrady have to go elsewhere. Or the team’s retaining of John Lucas III, whose efficiency and passing wasn’t anywhere near James’ levels during their runs earlier this year.

Scal is huge. Just watch his interactions with Rose especially during games, as they bounce ideas off of each other and determine ways to down the opponent away from the coaching staff. But it’s as if the payoff for his fantastic presence as a type of player-coach is to give him that “player” mantle. And though Ronnie Brewer and Jimmy Butler have played sound wing defense this season, the Bulls could use someone like Bogans when going up against Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and the Miami Heat. If just for short stretches, while we’re reminded about the liability that he was at times last year against that same opponent.

It’s a good problem to have, with all that depth, a top-notch team leader in Scalabrine, and players wanting to be part of your team. But hurt feelings are bound to turn up from time to time. Keith Bogans’ case, in a way, is pretty expected.