For Bogdan Bogdanovic the most difficult part of rehab: patience

Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic shoots as Chicago Bulls guard Coby White (right) defends during the second half Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020, in Chicago. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)
Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic shoots as Chicago Bulls guard Coby White (right) defends during the second half Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020, in Chicago. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

After joining the Hawks in late November, Bogdan Bogdanovic quickly gained a reputation as one of the hardest workers on the team.

That hasn’t wavered, even as he’s spent the past month recovering from an avulsion fracture in his right knee, which he suffered in the loss to Charlotte on Jan. 9.

“Bogi never stops shooting,” coach Lloyd Pierce said Monday. “... He shoots in chairs, he shoots with the brace on, he shoots with the brace off, he does ball-handling and passing drills in chairs. He does it with the brace on, he does it with the brace off. One thing you’ll never have to worry about with Bogi is him shooting and getting shots up.

“He’s obviously out of the brace. He’s doing what he’s capable of doing and what he’s allowed to do. But you won’t find Bogi not working.”

That’s the attitude that got Bogdanovic to the NBA, and it’s not changing — even if it means he’s staying late after Monday’s practice to do some form shooting, standing upright in one place, now that he’s finally allowed to ditch the leg brace.

“It’s hard for me because even when I’m tired sometimes, I have my routine in my head, so I’m like, I have to do it, you know?” Bogdanovic said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That’s what got me here, honestly. So I cannot just rest and (not) do it. I can’t. That’s my way, nothing else. I’m just trying to stay on and whenever I’m cleared to go, I want to be ready. I don’t want to take up extra time to get ready for the game. That’s how I think.”

Exactly one month after he was injured, Bogdanovic has made significant progress, but he did have to slow for several weeks. He didn’t require surgery. Barring setbacks, it won’t be a season-ending injury, and if he had it his way and was healthy enough, he’d make it back on the court before the All-Star break (the Hawks’ last game of the first half of the season is March 3 in Orlando).

Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) sits on the court after being fouled by Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) during the first half Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. Bogdanovic injured his right knee. (Jacob Kupferman/AP)
Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) sits on the court after being fouled by Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) during the first half Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. Bogdanovic injured his right knee. (Jacob Kupferman/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

“I hope I can, I was looking at a calendar and watching the games and how many games we have left on the schedule, so anything before All-Star would be really good for me, but I don’t want to put the pressure on it,” Bogdanovic said. “But I would like to play before the All-Star (break), if it was me, and if my body heals up.”

At this point, though, it’s still too soon for him to say specifically when he’ll be back. Team doctors are taking X-rays each week to judge his progress.

“It’s a process of getting on the court, getting contact in practice, playing with the guys a little bit, a couple practices, so it’s a process,” Bogdanovic said. “... What I expect, I don’t know how my body will react and we’ll just follow the processes, nothing else.”

At the beginning, he could only work out his upper body and do a few core exercises, then it progressed to more lifting and shooting from a chair. He was progressively moving better and feeling better, and can now handle the ball, shoot standing up and add more core, leg and ankle exercises to his routine, and he’s started to try some light running. He’s increasing his range of motion and conditioning.

ExploreBogdan Bogdanovic ramps up activity without knee brace

Bogdanovic still has a ways to go, as he’d have to get up to full speed and practice with contact before returning to games. The good news is, he’s doing everything pain-free right now, though part of that is they’re not pushing him and only doing exercises/drills that won’t aggravate the knee. He hasn’t had any big setbacks, as he works through rehab, which is encouraging.

If something does irritate the knee, he takes it easy the next day. Normally, he’s not feeling any pain in his knee anymore, but he’ll feel soreness the day after he incorporates more activity.

“As far as the next day, sometimes, if I do it too much, then it gets sore,” Bogdanovic said. “Then we (back) off it a little bit, and next two days I can do two days in a row what I couldn’t (before), so it’s progress. My body is healing really good and I’m taking care of what I’m eating and how I sleep. … I’m 100% locked in to recover well and fast at the same time.”

Frustrating as it is to be out, especially with an injury that’s not as common and often has to be explained, Bogdanovic is handling it with good humor (“Everyone is learning about this, it’s funny,” he added with a laugh).

He’s staying positive, because he considers himself lucky.

He couldn’t sleep for three days after going down in the Charlotte loss, awaiting MRI results. He kept watching the video of him going down awkwardly in the second quarter, wondering what exactly had happened.

“When the results came back, like I don’t need surgery and I will be able to play this season again, I felt happy again,” Bogdanovic said. “That’s why I was looking for the positive side of the injury.”

When he had X-rays taken during the game, doctors could tell his his ligaments and meniscus were fine, and didn’t immediately think it was anything serious, but could tell something was off inside his knee, which had immediately locked up. At first, he could put zero pressure on the knee, and had to be helped off the court, but that went away quickly. The first few days were when he experienced the most pain.

Bogdanovic says he had never broken a bone or had a big injury before, so he’s had pretty good luck up until this point.

Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic goes to the basket against Detroit's Isaiah Stewart Monday, Dec. 28, 2020, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic goes to the basket against Detroit's Isaiah Stewart Monday, Dec. 28, 2020, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

“I’ve never felt that way,” Bogdanovic said. “It was so weird when I think about it. My shoe stuck in one spot; it didn’t move. My hip went, my whole knee and the leg went into my hip and I popped and my knee went kind of out and I felt a little pop in my ears, like you know when you crack your fingers and you feel the sound, but inside?

“It was that, the little fracture. It was scary. In the moment, you hurt it so bad, so crazy, and I couldn’t land. I couldn’t put any pressure on my leg. And they had to help me to get out. But five minutes later, five minutes later, I was feeling good and could put some pressure on it. But the next day, it was hurting like crazy, and it was swollen and it was kind of weird. The next day was the scariest day.”

Per the Mayo Clinic, avulsion fractures occur when a small part of a bone that’s attached to a tendon or ligament is pulled away from the bigger part of the bone.

Since he was diagnosed, he’s been leaning on the Hawks training staff to help him through his rehab.

“The whole team here, they’re really on it,” Bogdanovic said. “And they’re really serious about it and they want me to be healed as best as I can, and they want me healed 100% and in good time, as well.”

Being patient with himself is a challenge, especially when he feels he was just finding a rhythm and getting to know his new teammates. But, it’s just a matter of healing and progressing to more activity.

“It’s super hard for me,” Bogdanovic said. “I really love the game. When you join a team, you just get to know your guys, you get find a role on your team, find a rhythm, just trying to figure it out to play together, and then I got hurt. So I don’t know what to say about it; I’m super excited, I cannot wait for the day to come, the ‘clear’ day.”

For Bogdanovic, who has never taken his ability to play for granted, this experience has only reinforced that.

“For a guy like me that loves basketball, like, I really love it, I don’t think anything for granted and I know I value every second of playing time,” Bogdanovic said. “The injuries hit you hard. Nothing you can do about it. I’m mad, I’m sad and everything, but I can’t wait to get back, really.”

In Other News