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Given his well-documented friendship with Real Salt Lake midfielder and fellow Croatian Damir Kreilach, it’s hardly a surprise that Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic is well-versed in Real Salt Lake’s surprising run through the Major League Soccer playoffs.
Asked at an off-day media session if he’d had a chance to watch any RSL games lately, Bogey’s face lit up: “Yeah, every single one. They got a big one on Saturday. I’m excited for the game and all of them — proving everyone wrong.”
He’s been soaking it up by proxy, thanks to Kreilach (whom he said he talks to every day) and RSL’s other resident Croatian, Toni Datkovic.
After a difficult regular season has been followed up by a nervy penalty kicks-win over the Sounders, then a shocking upset of Sporting Kansas City, RSL’s players really do see a pathway to a most unexpected championship, according to Bogdanovic.
“They’re really excited. They see [the possibility] that they can win it all,” he said. “Portland’s gonna miss a couple [guys] ... So they really have a chance. And the way they are playing and the way they stick together through really tough times, the last three or four games of the regular season, really helped them to play welling the playoffs. They’re full of confidence, and I hope they’re gonna make the big finals.”
Bogey noted with enthusiasm that the Jazz’s flight to Cleveland on Saturday (where they’ll kick off a four-game trip a day later) will be in time for him to watch the Western Conference finals matchup between RSL and the Timbers. His levity only continued when asked “How good of a soccer player are you?”
“I mean, pretty good for a basketball player.”
Triple-doubles on their minds
The Jazz famously (or infamously) haven’t had a player record a triple-double in a regular-season game since Carlos Boozer did it back on Feb. 13, 2008. They haven’t had one at all since Ricky Rubio got one in the playoffs in 2018.
It was looking for awhile like that might change this past Saturday night, when Donovan Mitchell racked up 17 points, five rebounds, and seven assists by halftime against the New Orleans Pelicans. Asked afterward if he was aware what his numbers were, Don replied, “Yeah, I’m not gonna lie.”
Thing is, with the Jazz running away from the Pelicans, he didn’t need to play a ton in the second half, and finished with 21/7/7. He was happy to get the win, considering Utah had blown it against New Orleans the night before. Still, he conceded, it’d be a nice thing to have on his résumé one day.
“It’d be cool. I mean, I’ve never had one in my career, I don’t think. So, I mean, that’d be cool to have one for the first time.”
Teammate Jordan Clarkson, meanwhile, first off could not believe the Jazz didn’t have one in the regular season since Boozer in ’08, (”How long? For real? That’s crazy! Whaaaat? That’s crazy.”), but then also had a different choice for who was most likely to break the streak.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if I see Rudy [Gobert] do it with some blocks — you know, have 15 rebounds, 15 points, and like 11 blocks or something,”.
The ‘wisdom’ of Rudy
Speaking of Rudy, let’s leave it with him and one of my favorite soundbites of the week, his response to a question about Quin Snyder expressing the need for the Jazz to find a balance between individual self-interests and the collective good:
“This is the NBA and we’re all here for a reason. We all beat the odds to be here. Everyone wants to be good, everyone wants to shine, but to have the maturity to understand that when we shine as a team, everyone shines, it’s wisdom. That’s why most teams cannot do that. It comes with wisdom and a deeper understanding of what sacrifices do you need to do to win. Who remembers, when the Bulls won [six titles in eight years], how many points people averaged? Nobody cares. All we know is that they won and they all got a ring and they won championships. Thirty years from now, that’s what we’re gonna think about. Nobody’s going to care about percentages or how many assists this guy had, or how many blocks this guy had. They’re just going to care about who won. That’s what we’re trying to do.”