How Bogdan Bogdanovic is supporting Kings teammates amid social unrest

How Bogdan Bogdanovic is supporting Kings teammates amid social unrest

A global pandemic is ravaging the world. The epicenter is the state of Florida and hiding inside of Florida is a tiny little bubble which houses the NBA.

In addition to the bubble and the pandemic, there are still protests all over the country as a social awakening is taking place.

It’s scary. It’s chaotic. It’s 2020 in America.

But what if you aren’t from here? What if you don’t know the complicated history of the country, but you are locked in your house like everyone else watching a 24-hour news cycle that at many times, is nothing short of disturbing.

Welcome to Bogdan Bogdanovic’s world.

Bogdanovic grew up in Serbia and still makes his home there in the offseason. But he spends a tremendous amount of time in the U.S. during the regular season and he’s doing his best to educate himself on pressing matters.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Sacramento Kings’ shooting guard sat down for a long discussion from the NBA’s Orlando bubble as part of the Purple Talk podcast on NBC Sports California.

“We’re here to learn, but at the end of the day, as a human, you know what is right and what is not right,” Bogdanovic said. “Sometimes you have to be there for the guys and choose the right side just to support them and be a really real friend.”

“It’s not political, it’s more doing the right things, making the right choices in life and that’s what I believe,” Bogdanovic added.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Bogdanovic, like the 15 other Kings players in the bubble, will wear a phrase on his back to promote social injustice and promote change. He has chosen the word “Sloboda,” which is Serbian for freedom.

This is what being part of a team means. Bogdanovic, like every player in the league, has a choice whether to participate in the league’s social awareness campaign. He has chosen to support his teammates, which at this point are more like his family away from Serbia.

During a complicated time, the Kings players have each other. They travel together throughout the season, but the current situation is different. This is a time when they have to rely on one other as they try to get through the isolation of the bubble, thousands of miles away from their families.

It’s also an unsettling time. Four Kings players have tested positive for the coronavirus. Harrison Barnes was the last to make his way to Orlando and he admitted on Monday that both his wife and his mother were positive for the coronavirus and both had symptoms.

Barnes arrived in time for the season restart, but these aren’t normal times and if you don’t believe that the players are giving up something to be in the bubble, you aren’t paying attention.

“This is more than a game, more than a tournament, more than basketball,” Bogdanovic said. “Everyone is making a sacrifice for the thing we love to do. Everyone should appreciate that, especially for players like HB. Leaving family over there to be with the guys here to help them try to make the playoffs, that’s a real thing for me. That’s a really good friend.”

The Kings are just one of 22 teams that have made the decision to press forward with the season. They aren’t looking to have a good time and they certainly didn’t travel all that way to cash in their chips and head home after eight games. 

They are focused on snapping the franchise’s 13-year playoff drought and they have worked hard for the opportunity that lies ahead.

“We are ready,” Bogdanovic said. “We practice for these games. We practice for this moment. We practice these moments, basically. I know how much work we’ve put into the game.”

Bogdanovic admitted that the road ahead won’t be easy, but he is telling his teammates to give 100 percent of themselves to this process and if they do that, they won’t have any regrets moving forward.

“This is maybe one chance you have in a life,” Bogdanovic said. “In this situation -- the bubble -- who knows what can happen, right?”

[RELATED: Fox feels 100 percent on ankle]

Sacramento opens their schedule against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday. They’ve pieced together a rotation over the last few weeks due to positive coronavirus tests and injuries, but they are getting healthy at the right time. 

They’ll walk into the tournament as a tight knit group, focused on one goal. It’s been a long time since a Sacramento Kings team had a shot with eight games remaining on the schedule, regardless of how unique this situation is. 

If they have a chance to steal away the No. 8 seed, they need to stay together and continue to build a bond both on the court and off.

Former Kings head coach, Hall of Famer Paul Westphal battling cancer

Former Kings head coach, Hall of Famer Paul Westphal battling cancer

Ten years ago, I walked into my first Kings media day as an independent writer with zero experience and no guarantee that I ever would be allowed in the building again. I was green and had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I had to fight my way into the building for media day in September 2010. When I was allowed to attend training camp a day later, it always was on uncertain ground. I kept showing up and the Kings kept opening the door and letting me in.

When I was credentialed for my first preseason game, it was with the understanding that it would probably be the only time that happened. When I made it on the list for the second game, it was explained that this was only for preseason.

A decade later, I keep showing up and the Kings keep letting me in the building. The reason? I had a backer in that first season that helped change my life.

I’ve met plenty of people throughout my journey that have impacted my career, but none more than former Kings head coach and Naismith Hall of Famer, Paul Westphal.

In the opening days of my first training camp, Westphal and I formed a connection. Maybe he was looking for an ally on the other side. Maybe I was, too.

Whatever the reason, we hit it off and unbeknownst to me, it was Westphal who had gone to the Kings’ media relations staff and told them to keep letting me in the building.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

It was the early stages of bloggers being allowed into NBA arenas. I showed up like clockwork, asked questions, was respectful and by the end of my first season, I was hooked.

At one point during that first season, Westphal and I exchanged numbers so I could reach out while the team was on the road. We would chat on the phone and I would transcribe the discussions for Q&A’s.

During the 2011 summer, the NBA hit a lockout, but that didn’t close a door with Westphal. We met for lunch during the lockout multiple times and would talk basketball and life for hours.

An incredible storyteller, Westphal would share behind the scenes stories of his coaching start at Southwestern Baptist Bible College, his experience working with Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns, and even the bizarre tale of Jerrod Mustaf.

Westphal was let go in Sacramento seven games into my second season covering the team after a public spat with young star DeMarcus Cousins. By that time, I already was considered a full-time member of the media corps, in part thanks to him.

On Sunday morning, Westphal’s longtime friend, Mike Lupica, turned to social media to give an update on Westphal, who was inducted in the Hall of Fame just last year.

Outside of my personal dealings with Westphal, he is widely considered one of the true gentlemen of the game. A magnificent player during his time in the league, he’s proven to be an even better person off the court.

It has been a while since we connected, outside of a text exchange when he received the call for the Hall, but he is an incredibly influential person in my career and my thoughts and prayers go out to Paul, his wife Cindy, their children and grandchildren as he battles a very unkind illness.

Kings vs. Rockets live stream: How to watch NBA restart game online, on TV

Kings vs. Rockets live stream: How to watch NBA restart game online, on TV

The Kings have won just one out of their first five games in the NBA's Orlando bubble. And now, here comes James Harden and the Houston Rockets. 

Sunday is another must-win for Sacramento, and it won't be easy. 

Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic has scored 62 points the past two games. But that only has resulted in one win. Buddy Hield's poor play has been a huge detriment to the Kings' playoff chances.

The sharpshooter left his shot in Sacramento. Hield is averaging just 11.8 points per game in Orlando while shooting 27.9 percent from beyond the arc.

The Kings will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss or a win from the Portland Trail Blazers.

Here's how you can watch Kings vs. Rockets online (download the MyTeams app here!) and on TV:

When: Sunday, Aug. 9 at 5 p.m. PT (Kings Pregame Live starts at 4:30 p.m PT)
TV: NBC Sports California
Stream: MyTeams app