CLEVELAND (Ohio) • Andrew Bogut suffered a season-threatening broken leg on his Cleveland Cavaliers debut as the National Basketball Association champions slumped to a 106-98 defeat by the Miami Heat on Monday.
Bogut, who joined the Cavaliers as a free agent only last Thursday, limped out of the action just 58 seconds into his debut, following a collision with forward Okaro White.
The 32-year-old Australian was helped back to the locker room by his team-mates and took no further part in the game.
Test results later revealed a fractured tibia, an injury which immediately placed a question mark over his availability for the rest of the season.
Cavaliers star LeBron James said he had guessed the seriousness of the injury after hearing a "crack".
"I heard a break," James told reporters. "As soon as the collision happened, I heard a break. When I went over to him and he said it, I already knew, I heard it crack."
He added that the injury "let the air out of the whole building" at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena - another blow to the side, following the loss of Kevin Love and J.R Smith to injuries.
Bogut was expected to help fill the role of big man behind Tristan Thompson, particularly in the ongoing absence of Love, who is out with a knee injury.
Bogut's arrival was also seen as giving the Cavaliers' roster a key inside player with championship experience.
The three-time Olympian had helped the Golden State Warriors beat the Cavaliers in the 2015 NBA Finals. Depending on the severity of his fracture, the Cavaliers may cut him, paying him the US$385,000 (S$543,3000) to which they had agreed, and sign another frontcourt player.
It is believed that the team might pursue Larry Sanders, who stepped away from the NBA after the 2014-15 season but met Cleveland last month.
Bogut took less money than he could have made elsewhere to sign with the Cavaliers, saying before the game it was his "best opportunity to try to win a championship".
He said he had "the luxury of having four or five teams recruit" him, but also took into account that with James, he would be "playing with one of the best, if not the best, players to play the game".
"How would you think his spirit's like? He played 58 seconds," James, who finished with 30 points, said when asked about Bogut's mood. "And have an injury like that to take you out for the rest of the season, possibly, and you really, there's not much you can say."
With Bogut - who earlier missed the final two games of the Warriors' loss to the Cavaliers in June after injuring his knee - missing, Eastern Conference leaders Cleveland were on the wrong end of a determined Miami performance.
Former Cleveland player Dion Waiters scored 29 points against his former club.
He made 12 of 24 from the field and capped his display by banking in a three-pointer as the seconds ran down to stymie a late comeback by the Cavs.
Waiters later admitted he had felt "good" scoring on his return to Cleveland. "But the point is to get a win. That's the biggest thing," he said. "Especially against the champs. You always want to test yourself to see where you're at. That's a helluva team over there."
The bulk of Cleveland's points came through James and Kyrie Irving. Irving finished with 32 points while James also had 17 rebounds as Cleveland attempted in vain to reel in a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST