Three years after being taken by the NEW JERSEY Nets with the first pick in the second round, a pick the Nets bought for $1.3 million, Bojan Bogdanovic stepped on an NBA court for real Wednesday night. At 6'8", the Croatian became one of the NBA's biggest shooting guards --and the first Nets rookie to start an Opening Night contest since Kenyon Martin and Stephen Jackson did back in 2000.
How'd he do? Not bad. He finished with seven points, 3-of-6 overall, 1-of-2 from deep, with a block, two assists --both to Kevin Garnett for angle jumpers, but no rebounds and two turnovers. About the same as Jabari Parker, better then fellow Euroleague star Nikola Mirotic of the Bulls. He did pick up three personals in 26 minutes, but his defense was no worse that most of his teammates. In fact, Jarrett Jack has complimented him on his D, saying it's been a surprise.
What's also been a surprise is his deference to teammates. Lionel Hollins has hinted that Bogdanovic, who had a reputation as a big shot player in Europe, is deferring way too much. Some have even suggested that he's in genuine awe of his teammates. His coach isn't worried. He's shown a good BBIQ and is a willing learner.
Larry Fleisher of Metro US quoted Hollins. "I think he’s figuring out the American game," head coach Lionel Hollins said. "He’s also figuring out that 3-point line is a little further away, and he needs to take his time, use a little more legs in shooting it. But he’s also finding out that contrary to what everybody thinks, the game is a lot more physical over here. I know people think the European game — I mean they foul hard over there, but I don’t think it’s more physical than the American game."
In his interview with Mike Lupica on ESPN Radio Thursday, Hollins suggested that expectations, at least this early, may have been too high.
“There’s a lot of high expectations for him. I think maybe too high,” Hollins said. “What I see is a guy who has a lot of versatility, who can do a lot of different things, but there’s still an adjustment period in him coming over from Europe.”
Next game is in Detroit where, as Mirza Teletovic can tell you, there are a lot of Bosnians and Croatians. In his rookie year, Teletovic spoke with a contingent of Bosnians before the game, then threw up three airballs. Let's hope that doesn't happen again!
And if you're wondering how K-Mart and SJax did in the first games of their long careers, Jackson finished with 15 points, KMart 10 and seven rebounds. They didn't defer. Between the two of them, they took 26 shots.