On the Jazz’s first day of training camp, Rudy Gobert was asked how long it might take for he and his new teammates to get comfortable with one another, and he responded, “Apparently pretty quick. Bojan [Bogdanovic] threw me a lob on the first play.”
When a reporter on Friday began to ask Bogdanovic about the play, but mis-phrased it as, “Rudy said he threw you a lob,” the sharpshooter’s eyes grew wide, a look of incredulous disbelief spreading over his face.
“I don’t think that’s true that he threw me a lob!” he exclaimed in sincere protest, before smiling and laughing once the identities of who threw the pass and who threw it down were correctly established.
No, Jazz fans probably shouldn’t be expecting the team’s big free agency acquisition to be on the receiving end of too many alley-oops this coming season.
Beyond that, though, no one is ready to put many limits on what he might be capable of with this team.
After the Jazz’s lack of consistent perimeter shooting and depth of creative offensive options beyond Donovan Mitchell was exposed in the team’s opening-round playoff loss to the Houston Rockets, the front office made it an organizational priority to shore up those weaknesses this past summer.
Beyond the trade for point guard Mike Conley came the decision to move on from big man Derrick Favors and instead turn to Bogdanovic, who averaged 18.0 points and shot 49.7% from the field and 42.5% on 4.8 attempts from deep per game last season for the Indiana Pacers.
Those overall numbers — plus the increased burden he shouldered after All-Star guard Victor Oladipo was lost to a season-ending injury — prompted Utah to lure him away with a four-year, $73 million deal on the opening night of free agency.
The Croatian’s shooting stroke has already convinced Mitchell that the money was worth it.
“I told him, I made the joke, ‘You just shoot 100% from 3.’ He doesn’t miss,” Mitchell said. “You know, when I’m in transition, that’s the first guy I’m looking for — him and Joe [Ingles].”
Mitchell also expressed pleasant surprise at how effective Bogdanovic is in pick-and-roll situations, calling him “very composed, very poised as far as getting into the lane.”
Composed and poised are generally good descriptors for a guy who’s known to be pretty quiet.
Which should not be mistaken for being reserved — at least about his new basketball home.
During his Media Day session, he casually opined that “this is probably the best team that I have ever been a part of.” When he was officially introduced by the team in Las Vegas during Summer League play, he said his rationale for picking the Jazz was as simple as, “I saw their roster. … Seeing Mike, Donovan, and Rudy over there, and seeing the Jazz are contenders every single year makes my decision so easy and so quick.”
Bogdanovic also been quick to try to ingratiate himself with those teammates he has raved about.
He laughed at Conley’s suggested “BoJoe Show” moniker for he and Ingles, though he suggested a better option might surface come the regular season. He conceded he has tried some pairs of Mitchell’s signature shoes in solidarity, on account of, “We’re the only two adidas guys on the team.”
On Friday, he gushed about how, “We are sharing the ball — it’s a pretty unselfish group of players,” and went on to add that, “Everybody is talking about our offense, but I think we have to keep that defensive mindset. … I hope we’re gonna keep that.”
On Monday, asked if he could be content with fewer touches with the Jazz after getting a taste of that “No. 1 offensive option” life at the end of last season with the Pacers, he made it clear that the more relevant numbers to him were the ones in the win-loss columns.
“You’ve got to find your role. I know I won’t have the same number of shots like I had last season with the Pacers, especially when Victor went down, but it’s my quality to fit in a system, to fit in the situation that I am put in,” Bogdanovic said. “So no matter how many shots, no matter how many minutes I’m going to play this season, I’m going to try to be my best on the court, and the best teammate.”
On Friday, asked how things had gone in the lead-up to the team’s preseason opener Saturday vs. the Adelaide 36ers of the Australian NBL, he was quick to attempt some equanimity, “It’s still early — we’ve only had four or five practices,” but he couldn’t contain his enthusiasm from eventually coming out:
“I feel pretty confident about this team.”