With the size of teams’ traveling parties to the Orlando bubble strictly limited this summer so as to reduce the threat of potential COVID-19 transmission, it meant the Utah Jazz bringing along injured forward Bojan Bogdanovic — who’d undergone season-ending wrist surgery in May — became impractical and untenable.
So instead, one of the team’s PR staffers had some posters of the Croatian sharpshooter printed up and hung on the elevator doors on team’s floor in the Gran Destino hotel — so that every time they were coming or going, his visage was there to greet them.
“We were constantly saying hi to him,” coach Quin Snyder recalled with a laugh in a Zoom call with the media on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s good to be able to say hi to him in the flesh.”
Indeed, Bogdanovic already has been training at the team facilities for the past several weeks, ahead of Tuesday’s start to training camp, when players could begin conducting individual 1-on-0 workouts with assistant coaches.
And he can’t wait to get back to playing.
“I missed being around those guys, and the feeling for the game, especially because I missed the playoffs, the most exciting part of the part of the season,” Bogdanovic told the media in his own virtual interview Tuesday evening. “It’s been a long recovery, the first time that I’m in this position, the first time that I had any any major injury. So it’s been very tough for me mentally.”
Bogdanovic said that he was playing in pain for most of the season without knowing the full extent of the injury until a medical exam during the hiatus finally revealed a torn ligament in his right wrist.
He wrestled with the decision of how to proceed, knowing there were plans in the works from the NBA to potentially resume the season at some point. After talking to “every single player and every single member of the coaching staff and the front office,” a consensus was reached that he should proceed immediately with the surgery in the hopes of having a fully healthy team for the next season, rather than trying to play through it, having surgery afterward, and missing most of the 2020-21 campaign.
Following the procedure, Bogdanovic was in a cast and then a brace for two months, after which he had pins removed from his wrist. Then came a couple months of range-of-motion exercises designed to start getting him back to normal — which he said he was approaching.
Executive vice president Dennis Lindsey told media on Monday that the team would evaluate the forward next week to determine his readiness for full-contact workouts. Bogdanovic added that while he’s eager to return, he doesn’t have any clarity yet on whether he’ll be ready to go when the regular season begins Dec. 22.
“We will need to reevaluate my situation when we start with a bit of contact practice. So I cannot tell you exactly if I’m going to be ready or not for the beginning of the season,” he said. “I’ve got to start to go 1-on-1 and start to play 5-on-5, some contact game, and then I’ll see how my wrist is gonna react. But I am really happy that I’m in the position that I am right now.”
Teammate Rudy Gobert expressed excitement Tuesday night about what the Jazz will be capable of when they have back the guy who averaged a career-high 20.2 points per game last year on 41.4% shooting from 3-point range.
“Bojan is a great 3-point shooter, he can create, he’s a great scorer — especially in clutch situations,” Gobert said. “When you don’t have that guy, especially in a lot of close situations, it does make a difference.”
Of course, Bogey hasn’t just been focusing on rehab. While he’s been getting up a bunch of shots beyond the arc recently, he also said he’s been working on improving his footwork so that he can become a better defender and rebounder, too.
And beyond that, there’s been one additional wrinkle that Snyder has thrown his way.
“We’re going to try to use him on the post more this year. I think that’s an area, if you’re looking through the season, where he can even be more effective,” the coach said. “… He can score a lot of different ways. And he impacts other guys’ ability to score, too — particularly Donovan [Mitchell] in pick-and-roll, or Donovan in an isolation situation. And with his height, too, sometimes bigger guys — you feel like they’re guarded and they’re not because they can just shoot over you.”