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Bojan Bogdanovic shows versatility in first game back with Jazz since March

Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) protects the ball against Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) during an NBA preseason game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020.
Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) protects the ball against Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) during an NBA preseason game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020.
Yukai Peng, Deseret News

It had been nine months since Bojan Bogdanovic had played in an NBA game.

After the 2019-20 season was suspended in March, the Utah Jazz and Bogdanovic made the tough decision for him to forgo a chance of playing in the playoffs in order to repair a ruptured ligament in his wrist that had been plaguing him all season.

Since May, Bogdanovic has been recovering from surgery and gearing up for a return to the court. On Saturday night, he soaked up every moment of his 17 minutes, 18 seconds on the hardwood in the Jazz’s 2020-21 preseason opener against the Phoenix Suns.

“It’s kind of kind of strange, this is my first time in my life that I didn’t play for this long,” he said after the game. “But I really wanted to play to get to get that good feeling back. I’m happy that I’m back.”

It wasn’t perfect. Bogdanovic, known for his sniper-like 3-point skills, was just 2-of-6 from distance in the Jazz’s 119-105 win, but that’s not what really matters right now, and there were other things to be happy about.

“We want him to be who he is, and he can score the ball in a variety of ways,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “I just want him to take the right shots, and for him, almost every shot is the right shot when he’s being aggressive. It’s good to have him back.”

Now in his sixth NBA season, Bogdanovic has probably been a little underrated as far as his scoring versatility goes, but the Jazz are looking to utilize all of his skill more and more.

Though Rudy Gobert has prime choices for pick-and-roll partners in Joe Ingles, Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley and even Jordan Clarkson, he’s also developed really nice give-and-go and handoff chemistry with Bogdanovic.

“Definitely something we’ve talked about and it’s something we want to do more,” Gobert said. “The threat that he is on the 3-point line and the size that he has, you know, he’s just so hard to guard.”

The give-and-go is a sneaky move to use against defenders who will often be so scared of Bogdanovic sliding out to the perimeter that it gives him and Gobert a lot of room to work with, and it’s one that was on full display early in the game on Saturday.

With 8:04 on the clock in the first quarter, Bogdanovic gave the ball to Gobert at the high post, juked the Suns’ Mikal Bridges and ran a tight roll over Gobert, gaining a couple of steps on Bridges and giving Gobert the perfect amount of room to send a simple over-the-top pass for an easy layup.

“Whenever he hits me and and we play the handoff, or we get the little over-the-top pass like we had tonight, I think that’s an action that we’re going to do more and more and something that we’re going to be very successful at,” Gobert said.

As Bogdanovic searches for ways to shake defenders, he sees his two-man game with Gobert as a way that the two can exploit defenders and change things up a little.

“That’s part of the game that we can improve on, both of us,” Bogdanovic said. “I think that I can do more damage on the get-action and passing game and handoffs with him instead of playing the standard pick-and-roll.”

The Jazz have been making a point of using Bogdanovic more in the post and getting him to run more actions with Gobert during training camp hoping to perfect things in time for the regular season.