SACRAMENTO -- There were plenty of questions coming out of the Sacramento Kings offseason, but one thing was known - the team knew who their starting backcourt was.
De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic finished off the 2017-18 season building chemistry and playing off one another. Fox is the speed merchant with star potential. Bogdanovic is the wise European player with an advanced feel for the game and deadly outside shot.
Sacramento’s plan was thrown out the window when Bogdanovic tweaked his left knee playing for the Serbian National team late in the summer and underwent a procedure to repair the joint on Sept. 25.
The injury cost Bogdanovic all of training camp and another 10 games of the regular season. It was also Bogdanovic’s second procedure on the same knee this summer, which forced the Kings to take a more cautious approach.
Six minutes into the first quarter of the Kings’ 114-105 loss to the Toronto Raptors, Bogdanovic finally made his season debut. He even received a huge ovation from the Sacramento crowd when he stepped to the scorers table to check in.
“It was good for him, just to see him back out there playing with us,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “Any time one of your guys goes down with injury it’s always nice to see them come back.”
Bogdanovic didn’t make the fans wait long to hear his name over the PA system. At the 4:51 mark of the quarter, he made a driving layup to give the Kings a seven point advantage. 34 seconds later, he drilled a 3-pointer and started to look like his old self.
“I thought Bogdanovic looked solid,” coach Dave Joerger said. “He got tired, there was no question about that and it showed a little bit - but I’m very proud of him and our entire team.”
Joerger is going to bring Bogdanovic along slowly, especially with the team’s new uptempo style. He played the 26-year-old guard 18 minutes, but he did so in short bursts. Bogdanovic played five minutes in the first quarter, a little over four in quarter number two. He totaled nine minutes in the second half, split evenly between the third and fourth quarters.
“He’s trying to find his rhythm,” De’Aaron Fox said. “He’s a great scorer and he shoots the ball well and a good playmaker. It adds another dynamic to the our team.”
Following the game, the Serbian-born wing spoke to the media.
“I’m not 100 percent, condition wise, I’m healthy, that’s most important right now,” Bogdanovic said.
After sitting out most of the last six weeks, Bogdanovic finished the night with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting. He also grabbed two rebounds and dished out an assist in the loss.
He played four positions for the Kings on the evening, including the one, two, three and four.
“I felt good honestly,” Bogdanovic said. “I’m just happy to be part of the team and to be healthy.”
Joerger has some difficult decisions to make in the near future. Bogdanovic’s setback opened the door for shooting guard Buddy Hield to step into the lineup and he’s taken full advantage in the team’s surprising 6-5 start. Through the first 11 games, Hield is posting over 20 points per game and shooting the lights out from all over the court.
Bogdanovic will take a few games to get back into NBA shape, but when he’s ready, he is a player that commands major minutes with his play.
When asked about how difficult it will be to fit Bogdanovic back into his rotation, Joerger was all smiles.
“Not a problem,” the veteran coach said. “He’s pretty good.”
It’s possible that Joerger will eventually start Bogdanovic alongside Fox and Hield in a three guard set. It’s also possible that Bogdanovic comes off the bench as a multi-positional super sub. Either way, having him back in the fold is a good problem to have for Sacramento.
Bogdanovic won’t have long to wait for his next opportunity to run up and down the court. The Kings play a home-and-home back-to-backs on Friday and Saturday beginning with the Minnesota Timberwolves, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers.