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Bucks count on contending with healthy Andrew Bogut

Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut (6) looks up

Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut (6) looks up to try to shoot the ball against Minnesota Timberwolves center Darko Milicic (31) in the second half. (Dec. 17, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

MILWAUKEE -- Andrew Bogut finally is back healthy. If he can stay that way, the Milwaukee Bucks could be back in contention this season.

Bogut's right arm was twisted grotesquely in a hard fall to the floor in April 2010, leaving him with a broken hand, dislocated elbow and sprained wrist. The No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft never was quite right last season: Bone fragments floating in his elbow would hit nerves and cause his arm to go dead at times, affecting everything about his game -- especially his shooting.

"Andrew, he played last year hurt all the time," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "He couldn't play his game, basically. He was still trying to, he was giving us everything he had, but he was playing unhealthy the whole year."

The 7-1 center toughed it out for most of last season, then went to noted sports Dr. James Andrews to get his elbow cleaned up. Then he started the long process of teaching his muscles to shoot again.

In a sense, having a longer offseason because of the lockout actually worked in Bogut's favor.

"It's kind of like a baby walking again, teaching my elbow and my wrist what they're supposed to do with the basketball when they get to that point," Bogut said. "The trauma of the injury, the nerves and the ligaments and the muscles sustained, it was a tricky process trying to mentally get back on track. The blessing in disguise was the lockout."

When the lockout was resolved and players could return to their teams, Skiles was thrilled with what he saw from his big man.

"He looks good," Skiles said. "He looks really good. He's got a nice bounce to his step and he's in great shape."

Even beyond Bogut, the Bucks were ravaged by injuries last season. Brandon Jennings missed time with a broken foot and Carlos Delfino sat out with a concussion.

The Bucks still managed to play decent defense last season. Milwaukee allowed 92.7 points per game last season, third-best in the NBA behind Boston and Chicago. Bucks opponents shot 44.7 percent from the floor and 32.6 percent from 3-point range, both second-lowest in the league.

They just couldn't score. Milwaukee scored 91.9 points per game last season and shot 43 percent from the floor, both league-wide lows.

With that in mind, Jennings knows there isn't a lot of buzz around the Bucks.

"We're always the underdog," Jennings said. "Even when we went to the playoffs my rookie year, they still wouldn't talk about us. I think that's the best thing about it, not to get so much attention and just sneak up in there, be one of those teams that sneak up in there."

Having Bogut, Jennings and Delfino healthy should help the offense. So will shooting guard Stephen Jackson, acquired in a three-way trade on draft day as were guards Beno Udrih and Shaun Livingston and the rights to first-round pick Tobias Harris.

Skiles said having a deeper backcourt will help the Bucks, especially during a regular season that has been condensed in the wake of the lockout.

"We feel like we've got a lot of versatility there, and theoretically, a deeper team's going to be a better team," Skiles said. "It's always a better team, but this year, it's going to be more important."

And while the Bucks realize most people outside the organization don't expect much from them this year, they fully expect to be back in contention.

"The guys that were here last year, all of us left with a bad taste in our mouths," Skiles said. "You know, you either kind of sulk around about that or you get ready and put in the time and try to get better, and clearly our guys did that."

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