Bogdan Bogdanovic soaks in season debut as Hawks fans warmly welcome him back

All Bogdan Bogdanovic could think about for the past five months was getting back to basketball. Then the moment arrived Friday night. Hawks coaches called his name, he headed to the scorer’s table and the nerves bubbled up as the crowd at State Farm Arena erupted.

“I honestly think it was perfect because I didn’t expect (the reaction), honestly,” Bogdanovic said. “When I was checking in, I was really calm, like I know what I’m going to do and what is my job, and I was ready. But then, I don’t know, I didn’t expect the ovations and the crowd going crazy.

“Like, I understand, but it was really hard for me. It made me nervous, honestly, like a little kid. That’s how I felt like the first two minutes and everyone’s trying to talk to me, I can’t hear nothing. And it was crazy, really, and I think it was perfect.”

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Bogdanovic ended the night with five points, making only two of his shots from the floor and one 3-point shot. He didn’t make only 3-pointer until the fourth quarter. When he did, the crowd rewarded him with loud cheers.

But the 30-year-old sharpshooter was not worried about his stats Friday. He felt more relieved that all of the hard work that he put in during his rehab had paid off.

The Serbian wing said that this was the first time he had dealt with an injury so severe in his life. He added that his love for the game made the process of trying to get back to the court all the more frustrating.

At the Hawks’ media day in September, general manager Landry Fields implied that Bogdanovic would be back when the regular season began. So when the season tipped off and Bogdanovic still needed time to heal, it left him feeling dejected.

“Like it’s just amazing, to go through the process since last season, and the way I finished (last) season, it’s kinda when you get hurt, and someone take that from you, you (feel) like a kid, really, and you want to come back really bad,” he said.

When the AJC spoke with Bogdanovic in October, he spoke of how the rehab process was a new mental challenge for him. Following his debut Friday, he echoed the sentiment. But after leaning on his family, his friends, his teammates and the Hawks training staff to help him through it, he made it back. He shared his gratitude to everyone in an Instagram post before Friday’s game and reiterated it in his postgame media availability.

With one game under his belt, Bogdanovic is focused on getting his speed back, as well as continuing to find his place in the Hawks’ new lineup.

Last season, Bogdanovic averaged 15.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and four assists per game, while making 38.4% of his shots from long range. So he’s confident it won’t take too long to find it.

“I’m pretty confident in the organization, Coach and everybody,” he said. “So, I know I’ll fit in right away. I knew the plays. I didn’t even, honestly, I didn’t even go through the playbook. I did (Friday) morning a little bit, but I knew everything right away when I stepped on the floor, and I know our game.

“So, I feel like I’m the type of player that can fit anywhere. So, I’m taught to play that team basketball. I know where is the small gaps, and that’s my style. And I’m just trying to teach the other (young) players to play. I think that’s a very effective way to play, and it’s very fun as well.”