SACRAMENTO -- There are very few things worse for a player than sitting on the sidelines with an injury and having to watch. Watching your team lose and wondering if you could have helped. Watching your team win and wishing you were part of the magic.
Bogdan Bogdanovic wanted to play from the opening tip of the season. He had put in the time in the gym during the summer to ready his body for the rigors of an 82-game NBA schedule. He even had undergone a scope on his left knee to free up the joint, with the hopes of a pain-free sophomore campaign.
As the season approached, the 26-year-old wing joined the Serbian national team for a tune-up for the season. It was no different than playing in a pickup game at the Kings’ practice facility or playing some friends in a game of three-on-three.
Unfortunately for Bogdanovic, something unexpected happened during a World Cup qualifying game against Estonia. He felt discomfort in the knee, and upon returning to Sacramento for evaluation, it was determined that he would need a second procedure on the same knee.
While Bogdanovic anxiously awaited his return, the Kings got off to an unexpected fast start. He missed the first 10 games of the season, having to sit courtside while his teammates amassed a 6-4 record.
When he finally got a chance to return to the court a week ago against the Toronto Raptors, he struggled, and so did his team, dropping the game 114-105. Still lacking medical clearance to play in back-to-back games, Bogdanovic sat out Friday’s win over the Timberwolves but returned to the court for the team’s loss to the Lakers on Saturday.
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Bogdanovic finally looked like the player the Kings have grown accustomed to seeing in the team’s Monday win over the San Antonio Spurs. Coming off the bench, Bogdanovic posted a team-high 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting in 25 minutes.
“It’s a great feeling, I cannot lie,” Bogdanovic said of being part of the win. “You can see it in my emotions. It’s a totally different feeling than when you’re playing bad and your team loses. It’s just different.”
The Kings didn’t exactly turn over their roster this summer. A few veterans are gone, but the core of the team -- with the exception of Nemanja Bjelica, Marvin Bagley and Yogi Ferrell -- are almost the same.
Sacramento is finding success with young players and a new style of play. For Bogdanovic, the growth of the team’s team is exciting to see.
“It’s amazing how we suddenly improved from last year,” Bogdanovic said. “I remember we didn’t didn’t know some of the plays in the season -- ‘Where’s my spot, where should I be?’ I talk about everyone generally. And now I think we know the roles more and more.”
Bogdanovic remains on a minutes restriction, but he hopes to play in the Kings’ upcoming back-to-back on the road in Memphis and Houston on Friday and Saturday. Following that stretch, he hopes to be cleared for full duty moving forward.
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After starting his rookie season 3-11 through 14 games, including a seven-game losing streak in the first two weeks, Bogdanovic has high hopes for the team this season.
“We are really trying to make the playoffs this year, and I know that sounds crazy for somebody, but that’s our motivation,” Bogdanovic said.
The Kings have a long way to go before people outside the locker room start talking about a potential playoff run. At 8-6, the team is playing much better than expected, and once Bogdanovic is completely cleared for regular duty, Sacramento will have another weapon to run out on the floor for major minutes.