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Croatian Rookie Bojan Bogdanovic Finally Seems Settled in Brooklyn

Bogdanovic, a 25-year-old forward from Bosnia and Herzegovina was relatively unknown before coming stateside over the summer.

Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Joe Murphy/Getty Images


When the Nets acquired 26-year old forward Thaddeus Young at the trade deadline for nostalgia, I mean Kevin Garnett, everyone knew that the deal was a boon for Brooklyn. The move has looked better by the day as Young has fit in seamlessly and the Nets have won 11 of their past 15 games. If the Nets make the postseason, the trade for Young is going to prove to be the main reason why. But a few others things have also gone right for Brooklyn since Young arrived on the scene.

Brook Lopez has played the best basketball of his career after starting off the season slow recovering from foot surgery. Deron Williams has shown flashes of his former self after looking all but done not that long ago. Second-round pick Markel Brown has found a niche in the starting lineup after spending the first few months of the season almost exclusively watching from the sidelines. And Croatian rookie Bojan Bogdanovic has been playing like a player that the Nets can count on over the next couple seasons as they try to retool their roster.

Bogdanovic, who starred for Croatia in the FIBA World Cup over the summer, came over to the States with massively high expectations from both outside and inside the organization.  But it’s always a process with prospects who come from overseas. It’s a different game on foreign soil in a foreign culture. At the start of the year, the potential was there, but the consistency wasn’t. He started the season shooting just 41 percent from the field and 30 percent from three over his first 45 games. However, he is shooting 49 percent from the field and 39 percent on treys in 29 games since Feb. 2.

After an up-and-down first half of the season, 6-foot-8 swingman has played much better since the All-Star break, playing with confidence and helping solidify coach Lionel Hollins’ bench. Bogdanovic attributes the change to regaining his confidence after losing his starting spot to Sergey Karasev in early December and falling almost completely out of the rotation.

“I lose a little bit of my confidence when I didn’t play a lot of minutes the last couple of months,” Bogdanovic told me in the Nets locker room. “But coach started drawing up some plays for me and I had more ball in my hands so that’s the only reason why I feel more and more confident.”

The difference has been notable. At times, he can now even be seen calling for the ball, his body language markedly different from early in the season, when he admitted that, at times, he would struggle with knowing what role he should try and fill on this team. After having been a star for Turkish league power Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul the past three years, Bogdanovic at times was the fifth option on the court in the early going this season. But after moving into the reserve role he’s in now, he has begun to thrive, looking for his offense and not hesitating to pull the trigger whenever he has an open look from deep.

“I had many up and down with my minutes and how I played,” said Bogdanovic, who has said that the toughest parts are his adjustment to the 3-point line being farther back and playing a lot of one-on-one defense, as opposed to the many zones they typically play in Europe. “I played a little bit better from the All-Star break. I feel like that I’ve adjusted many things here and I’m happy with my first season.”

Bogdanovic, a 25-year-old forward from Bosnia and Herzegovina was relatively unknown to many fans in the United States before coming stateside over the summer, but he was on the N.B.A.’s radar for some time. In 2011, the Miami Heat selected him with the 31st overall pick in the draft. On draft night, he was traded twice, going first to the Minnesota Timberwolves and then to the Nets, who gave up a second-round draft pick and some cash. When Brooklyn acquired the Croatian baller the early reports from experts were – “first-round talent” or “a steal that late”.

The Nets held onto his rights while he played and thrived during the last three seasons with Fenerbahce, averaging 13.7 points per game. It seemed as if he might join the team in 2013, but the Nets were unable to come to a buyout agreement with Fenerbahce. But this past summer, with a new agent, Arn Tellem, talks moved quickly once Shaun Livingston agreed to sign with Golden State. With Livingston going to the Warriors, the Nets earmarked the mini-MLE exception for Bogdanovic, worth three-years and $10.3 million.

In an odd twist of fate, Bogdanovic became the third Net to have been born in Mostar, a small Bosnian city of 125,000. Zoran Planinic and current Net, Mirza Teletovic, were also born there. The city was the scene of heavy fighting in the Balkan Wars of the mid-1990’s, In the war’s aftermath, Teletovic’s family chose Bosnian citizenship, Planinic and Bogdanovic chose Croatian, who he represents proudly in International play.

“My first dream when I start to play basketball was to play for my National team,” said Bogdanovic, who shined brightest during last summer’s European Championships, leading Croatia to eight straight wins in the tournament and joining the likes of NBA regulars Tony Parker, Goran Dragic and Marc Gasol on the FIBA Eurobasket All-Star Team. “So I’m really proud that I can wear that shirt and represent my Country.”

Bogdanovic, who is ethnically Croatian, has been playing professional basketball since 2004, when he joined Zrinjski Mostar, in his hometown, as a 15-year-old, but the N.B.A. has represented a new and difficult challenge for him. Luckily he has had some help along the way and adjusting to life in New York hasn’t been a problem.

“I’m happy that I had Mirza on the same team, so he speak my language and help me a lot,” said Bogdanovic. “There’s also many Croatians here in New York so I didn’t have to make a lot of adjustment off the court.”

To see Bogdanovic and the rest of the Brooklyn Nets fight for a playoff position, can get any fan in front of the action with flights to Brooklyn, ranging from $250-$500, depending on where you are flying in from. In addition, Hipmunk has tips and information on finding the cheapest hotels in the Brooklyn area, which currently have rooms starting from $85.

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