Five minutes into the NBA season, Bojan Bogdanovic went from playing possum to apex predator.
Not only did the 6-foot-8 forward from Croatia show no hangover from his two 0-for shooting performances in the preseason, Bogdanovic wouldn’t even let an ankle sprain slow him down.
Bogdanovic was the steam engine behind a hot start for the Jazz. He also showed some killer instinct late as he helped the Jazz take down the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-95 in both teams’ season opener Wednesday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Bogdanovic began the night shooting a perfect 3-for-3 from the field. By making his free-throw in an and-one situation midway through the first quarter, he had scored seven of the Jazz’s 12 points and was making coach Quin Snyder sound like a soothsayer.
“I think he’s just playing possum,” Snyder said in his pregame press conference when asked about Bogdanovic’s preseason woes.
Bogdanovic, who had been brought in from the Indiana Pacers to bolster Utah’s offense, especially from behind the arc, shot a less-than-stellar .273 percent from the field and .250 in 3-pointers in the preseason. On Wednesday, however, he was the team’s scoring leader until Emmanuel Mudiay took over the mantel late in the second quarter on a four-for-five shooting effort.
By then Bogdanovic’s seat on the bench had grown cold, and not because he was still burning down the net. He sprained his left ankle while trying to cut away from OKC’s Danilo Gallinari on offense with 6:33 left in the period. He immediately grabbed the ruby red sneaker-clad foot, hobbled to the far right corner, then went down to the ground. He heavily favored the leg as he limped, aided, into the locker room. A report at half-time deemed him questionable to return.
"I was sick to my stomach when he went down," Snyder said. "But he's been playing this game for a long time and he's played in a lot of big games. And he's a competitor. That's what we liked about him. But to me what's as significant as the buckets he got in the second half, and those were some big buckets, was that he came out ready to go in the third quarter. Obviously he wasn't 100 percent, and that's a competitor."
Incredibly, Bogdanovic did return, and with little indication that he was anything other than 100 percent healthy. He said he thought the injury was worse, but the roaring opening-night crowd lessened his pain.
“This great atmosphere that we had today kind of got to me,” said , who is expected to undergo an MRI on the ankle Thursday, “and I wanted to stay, actually.”
He didn’t just stay. He added nine more points, including a lively streak at the end of the third quarter and a momentum-boosting 3 in the top of the fourth. He finished with 16 points — the second-most on the team behind Donovan Mitchell’s 32 — on 6 for 14 shooting. He also had three rebounds.
Just as he shook off the injury, shook off his preseason performance as nothing to worry about.
“I always play bad in the preseason, honestly” he said.