Bojan Bogdanovic still getting feel for the game after nearly eight months off the court
After long absence from the court while recovering from surgery, Jazz sharpshooter knows he needs ‘to stay confident’
OKLAHOMA CITY — If you thought that Bojan Bogdanovic was going to start out the season and look exactly as he did when the 2019-20 season was suspended, maybe it’s time to temper expectations just a little bit.
The seventh-year small forward put up career-high numbers last season, scoring 20.2 points per game — second highest on the Utah Jazz — and doing so by shooting 41.4% from the 3-point line and 90.3% from the charity stripe.
There’s no reason to believe those numbers won’t be replicated by Bogdanovic this season, it just might take him a little more time to get back to normal.
Bogdanovic is just seven months removed from having surgery to repair a ruptured ligament in his right wrist. While all signs point to a full recovery, the shortened training camp and preseason means Bogdanovic went nearly eight months without playing any basketball and only just returned to the court a few weeks ago.
“I missed playing,” he said Monday night after the Jazz beat the Thunder 110-109. “I mean I didn’t play for seven, eight months. I didn’t touch the basketball, I couldn’t play pickup games and whatever the other guys were doing. So I’ve got to get back to that feeling.”
After such a long layoff from any kind of competitive on-court activity, Bogdanovic is understandably still trying to find his rhythm.
“I’m playing in a crowd and taking the shots that are not my shots,” he said. “I’ve got to stay confident.”
When Bogdanovic is at his best, he’s patient in waiting for the open shot and getting rolling by hitting from the outside and then working his way in. Through the first three games of the season though, he’s admitted to forcing drives and settling for low-efficiency mid-range shots in the early parts of games.
Not only has that been an unsuccessful way for Bogdanovic to get into a groove during the course of a game, but it also just plain doesn’t feel right for him.
On Monday night in Oklahoma City, Bogdanovic missed his first 3-point attempt. Six of his next eight attempts came either in traffic at the basket or on pull-up mid-range shots and he went into the second half of the game 0 for 3 from beyond the arc.
When the third quarter opened up, Bogdanovic came out with more resolve to get back to his game. He made five consecutive shots, four from 3-point distance.
“After that first 3 then I started feel a little bit better and then I can do whatever I want. But from the beginning of the game I’ve got to be a little bit smarter right now because I’m not playing like I am supposed to play.” — Bojan Bogdanovic
“After that first 3 then I started feel a little bit better and then I can do whatever I want,” he said. “But from the beginning of the game I’ve got to be a little bit smarter right now because I’m not playing like I am supposed to play.”
He later joked that maybe a collision that happened in the opening moments of the second half contributed to his shift in approach.
“In the first play of the third quarter someone hit me pretty hard on my wrist and then I started playing better so maybe I needed that to change something,” he said with a laugh. “Like I said, I’ve just got to take better shots, (make) better decisions. I miss that feeling still.”
Though Bogdanovic may be navigating the mental side of getting his groove back, the other Jazz players and the coaching staff are far from concerned.
“I tell Bojan to shoot every time he touches it,” Donovan Mitchell said. “Just because that’s the faith we have, as a team, in him. ... We know that he’s working hard to get back.”
While it’s easy for his teammates and the coaching staff to have faith in Bogdanovic’s abilities and to trust him with any shot from anywhere on the court, Bogdanovic knows that he has to stop trying to force things and let the game come to him in a more natural way.
The success he had in the second half against the Thunder, en route to a team-high 23 points in the victory, should serve as a blueprint for Bogdanovic in the coming games. Even if he still has some bumps along the way, his teammates are behind him, certain he’ll be back to normal.