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Bojan Bogdanovic on his return to Vivint and how he’ll always be thankful to have been a Jazz man

Bogdanovic is certainly not used to being in the visitors locker room at Vivint Arena

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Utah Jazz guard Collin Sexton (2) defends Detroit Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) as the Utah Jazz and the Detroit Pistons play on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022.

Utah Jazz guard Collin Sexton (2) defends Detroit Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) as the Utah Jazz and the Detroit Pistons play at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. Detroit won 125-116.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Early in the third quarter of Tuesday night’s Utah Jazz game against the Detroit Pistons, Jordan Clarkson was guarding Bojan Bogdanovic and poked the ball away from his former teammate. Bogdanovic ended up falling down on the play and ball went out of bounds off the Jazz.

Clarkson extended his hands to help Bogdanovic up and when Bogdanovic was back on his feet the two laughed and hugged.

The crowd responded with audible “awws” and then applause.

Bogdanovic and Clarkson were role players for the past three years on a Jazz team that had legitimate NBA stars, but the two still managed to endear themselves to the fanbase in a unique way.

While Clarkson has been the fun-loving, cool vibes player, Bogdanovic was more of an enigma and that’s part of why everyone loved him so much.

“He’s like mysterious,” Clarkson said laughing. “I feel like none of you guys really know him either. You don’t know what he did after (he would leave practice.) He might have run 40 (Fortune) 500 Wall Street companies, just in the back, posted up. Or he might have ran 80 food-chain restaurants that are big-time here. … He’d come in with the duffel bag sometimes — you don’t know what’s in it. Is it full of cash? You don’t know!”

All jokes aside, the biggest reason that Bogdanovic was so beloved by his teammates and his fans was that he was so reliable.

“I just know that he’s a boss and he gets it done and that’s my guy, always,” Clarkson said. “We always knew he was gonna give us 20-plus a night. He was never going to have an off-night, and if he did, it was like 18. It was never like, ‘Man, Bogey just played terrible tonight.’ He always brings it to the table.”

Bogdanovic was the first of the four starters traded in the offseason to return to Vivint this season and said that it was strange coming back and seeing how different things were. There’s been some remodeling done in the arena, the colors are different, the team is completely different, there’s a new coach.

It’s not exactly how Bogdanovic remembers it, and he’s certainly not used to being in the visitors locker room. But there were some things that were familiar.

“It’s kind of strange to be in this locker room it’s great to great to see the faces of  my friends,” he said. “There’s the coaching staff and the guys from the weight room that are all still here and there’s (four players) left from the time I was here. It’s always great to see old friends.”

The last remaining holdover players from that team are Clarkson, Mike Conley, Rudy Gay and Udoka Azubuike, who all were able to briefly spend some time together earlier in the night in the Jazz locker room with Bogdanovic, before hugging once again on the court.

Conley said all of the same things that Clarkson did of Bogdanovic. How reliable he was, how smart he was on the court and how he could always be counted on to shine in big moments. Conley also said he felt lucky to be one of the only players in the league who shared a ritual pre-game handshake with Bogdanovic.

“He said he doesn’t have handshakes with anybody,” Conley said, remembering when ritual was born. “When I got traded here and he first signed here and we had our press conference in Vegas, I got to know him a little bit and said, ‘Hey, since we’re the new guys, we’ve got to come up with a handshake or something.’ I didn’t know at the time that he doesn’t really get down like that. But he complied, and we made up a quick one.”

Conley appreciated Bogdanovic’s quiet and reserved everyday approach — an attitude that Conley could relate to. Both players saw all of the changes happening on the roster over the summer and were waiting by the phone, expecting that they were going to be next to receive a call, letting them know that they too had been traded.

“And then the call came to me, and not to him,” Bogdanovic said.

He still thinks about what could have been if he hadn’t had season ending wrist surgery before the Orlando bubble restart in 2020 and what could have been with the 2021 team if Conley and Donovan Mitchell hadn’t been injured in the playoffs.

But no matter what happened, Bogdanovic said that he will always have good memories of being a Jazz man.

“Big time,” he said. “I mean, this is one of the best organizations in the league. It’s pretty familiar atmosphere and I was really, really happy and honored to be part of this organization. And I still think that the Jazz has got some of the best fans in the league.”