OAKLAND - The Warriors spent decades looking for a formidable starting center.
They had swung and missed in the NBA draft. In 1996, they chose center Todd Fuller 11th overall, two picks ahead of Kobe Bryant.
They tried stopgaps in free agency and trades. Nothing worked.
So here was the solution. Last season, general manager Bob Myers took a chance that made sense on the court but infuriated many longtime Warriors fans.
Golden State traded perhaps its most popular player, Monta Ellis, in a deal for injured Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut.
Bogut is finally playing, and playing well. His defense has helped anchor a historically soft middle.
Coach Mark Jackson has let Bogut guard San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan one-on-one late in games, which helped the Warriors win Sunday and enter Tuesday night's fifth game of the Western Conference semifinals in San Antonio tied 2-2.
Bogut scored only five points but grabbed 18 rebounds, even though he was limited to 28 minutes because of early fouls.
Now there is much less talk about how much Ellis is missed.
"People now can understand when they pick up the stat sheet that I might have five points, but I can affect the game," Bogut said. "Fans that play fantasy just want numbers, and I'm not really a huge numbers guy."
Bogut, however, is putting up some huge numbers. He's averaging 14 rebounds against the Spurs and is a big reason the Warriors have outrebounded San Antonio in each game of this series.
Jackson told the Oakland Tribune that Bogut is "a game changer because of his presence in the paint and his high IQ for the game of basketball."
Bogut arrived in Oakland in March 2012 with a broken left ankle that cost him the last 49 games of the 2011-12 season.
The ankle wasn't fully healed to start this season, and Bogut played in only 32 regular-season games.
Lately, Bogut has looked like the player who was third-team All-NBA after the 2009-10 season.
"I knew it would come back," Bogut said. "It was just a matter of when."
With All-Star power forward David Lee slowed by a hip injury, Bogut picked a fine time to begin regaining his form to guard Duncan.
"It helps so much to have a guy like Bogut," Warriors forward Carl Landry said. " ... We don't have to double-team with rotations out to their shooters. We stay at home and make it tough on (Duncan). Duncan's a pretty good player, probably one of the best players to ever play this game. And to be able to defend him the way we have is definitely a bonus for our team."
Myers can smile knowing the deal he made is proving to be good. All it took was patience and Bogut owning the paint against the Spurs.
And for Bogut, all this is coming against a player he respects.
"Tim's a Hall of Famer, one of the best players to ever play the game, a guy I looked up to when I was a kid," Bogut said. "He's fundamentally sound. You just try to make him battle and work for everything.
"He's going to have games where he makes shots, and he makes some very, very tough shots. So all I try to do is annoy him, be out there and push him off his spot and try to make him earn his baskets."