According to reports out of Croatia, Bojan Bogdanovic is listed on his country’s roster for the upcoming EuroBasket Tournament (August 31 — September 17), along with fellow NBA players Dario Saric (Philadelphia 76ers) and Dragan Bender (Phoenix Suns).
“I have been playing with the national team for a while now and I am always proud and happy to wear the national team jersey and to compete for my country,” Bogdanovic told FIBA earlier this year. “I love being with the national team every summer.”
Unfortunately for Croatia’s podium chances, it does not appear that all of his teammates share this sentiment, at least not when it comes to this particular summer. Despite an impressive upset over Spain on the opening day of pool play and a surprising advancement to the quarterfinal round of the 2016 Olympics, Bogdanovic is one of only six players returning from that roster.
In addition to the three (!) seven-footers who have pulled out (Ante Zizic, Ivica Zubac, and Miro Bilan), Mario Hezonja is skipping the tournament in order to focus on the crucial upcoming third year of his rookie contract following an underwhelming season with the Orlando Magic.
With that degree of player turnover and lack of rim protection, Croatia’s young roster will likely need to lean even more heavily upon the 28-year-old veteran for leadership and scoring to advance out of Group C, which features Spain, Montenegro, Hungary, and Romania, or even have a chance of hanging tough against Lithuania’s size and strength in the event that they advance to the quarterfinals. Bogdanovic, much to his credit, led all scorers in Rio with 25.3 points per game.
Still, beyond providing an early sneak peak of the sharpshooter’s ability to shoulder a larger burden before he debuts for the Pacers, Bogdanovic’s participation is noteworthy due to word that Lithuania will be without Domantas Sabonis, allegedly at his new team’s urging.
Granted, the younger of the two has greater need of development and was brought to Indiana by way of a controversial trade, but the elder is projected to transition to a starting role at an already thin position, which arguably means that the upcoming season carries equal, but different, weight for both players.
After all, as the tear Brandon Knight recently sustained to his ACL goes to show, injuries can happen anywhere, anytime.
Assuming, then, that Bogdanovic didn’t deliberately disregard their wishes, it’s odd that the Pacers presumably had a different and unequal response to each player’s participation.