CLEVELAND (AP) Andrew Bogut has changed jerseys – and perhaps sides in the NBA Finals.
The free agent center signed Thursday with the Cleveland Cavaliers, joining the team he faced the past two Junes with a championship on the line.
Bogut spent the past four seasons with the Golden State Warriors, who could be on a collision course to play the Cavs for the third straight year.
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A lot of hoops will be played before that, but the 7-foot Bogut gives the Cavs another proven veteran to help them get back to the Finals and defend their title.
Bogut, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, is not expected to make his debut with Cleveland until next Monday when the Cavs host Miami. The Cavs are at Atlanta on Friday and will finish a three-game trip against the Heat on Saturday.
The 7-foot Bogut deepens the Cavs up front as they await Kevin Love’s return from knee surgery. The 32-year-old Bogut, who is also one of the game’s best passing big men, will be motivated to try and get back to the Finals and face the Warriors, who traded him last summer to open salary cap space so they could sign Kevin Durant.
”’He brings a physicality, a shot-blocking presence,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said on Wednesday in Boston before the Celtics beat Cleveland 103-99. ”A guy who can pass the ball at the 5 position and that’s what we needed.”
Bogut was recently traded to Philadelphia, which waived him. There were several teams interested in signing him for the remainder of the season, but he chose Cleveland, which signed his former Dallas teammate, guard Deron Williams, just a few days earlier.
Williams, who played 23 minutes in his debut with the Cavs, had been in contact with Bogut after the pair left the Mavericks.
Bogut has averaged 10 points and 8.9 rebounds in his career, which began when Milwaukee selected the Australian No. 1 overall 12 years ago. Bogut spent seven seasons with the Bucks.
He’s the fourth new player to join the Cavs since the start of 2017.
General manager David Griffin has expertly overhauled his team, acquiring sharpshooter Kyle Korver, signing Bogut and Williams, a three-time All-Star, and signing forward Derrick Williams, a former No. 2 overall pick, to a pair of 10-day contracts. The Cavs intend to sign Derrick Williams for the remainder of the season once his second deal expires this weekend.
The changes have led to some growing pains, but Lue is confident the Cavs will work through them.
”When guys come in we try to make guys fit in,” he said. ”When Korver first got here, we turned down a lot of shots, we didn’t do the things we were accustomed to doing because we were trying to get him integrated, make him feel comfortable.
”Once he realized what we do and how we do things and we understood what he liked, I think it was a great fit for us. It’s going to be the same for D-Will (Deron Williams) early, it’s going to be the same for Bogut.
”But once we all get together and get on the right page, we’ll be a tough team to beat.”