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'They can win it all': Bojan Bogdanovic is the Jazz's RSL bandwagon leader

Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) talks during the Utah Jazz media day at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.

Utah Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) talks during the Utah Jazz media day at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Bojan Bogdanovic knew where the question was headed.

"What time do you fly on Satur … ?" a reporter began.

"Yeah, we're gonna get there in time," Bogdanovic jumped in.

The Jazz will arrive in Cleveland on Saturday afternoon ahead of a Sunday matinee matchup with the Cavs. But there will be something a little more pressing for Bogdanovic when the plane touches down in Ohio: finding somewhere to watch Real Salt Lake play in the Western Conference Finals against Portland.

Bogdanovic is likely the biggest RSL supporter on the Jazz team. Part of that comes from growing up in soccer-loving Croatia; the bigger part is having two countrymen — Damir Kreilach and Toni Datković — playing for the Claret and Cobalt.

So, yes, he's very much been enjoying RSL's current playoff run, including Sunday's come-from-behind thriller.

"Yeah, every single one," Bogdanovic said when asked if he's been watching the matches. "The big one on Saturday (in Portland). I'm excited for the game and for all of them — proving everyone wrong."

Bogdanovic said he's been in near-daily contact with Kreilach, who he became fast friends with when they both ended up playing professionally in Utah. Kreilach and Datković are frequent guests at Jazz games, including Monday night's win over Portland, and said there's been a growing confidence and excitement in them as they've advanced throughout the tournament.

"They see the light that they can win it all," Bogdanovic said.

The Jazz sharpshooter made it crystal clear he's not just passively paying attention, too. He gave a run down on why RSL has a puncher's chance against the favored Timbers, and he pointed out that Portland will be without star midfielder Sebastian Blanco (hamstring injury) and forward Darion Asprilla (red card), giving RSL a golden opportunity to continue their surprising run.

"They really, really have a chance," Bogdanovic said. "The way that they are playing, and the way that they stuck together through really, really tough times in the last three or four games during the regular season, (that) kind of helped them to play well in the playoffs. They're full of confidence and I hope that they're gonna make the big finals."

Bogdanovic isn't alone in his RSL fandom within the Jazz organization. Donovan Mitchell has been to games and can sometimes be seen in a Real Salt Lake kit, and members of the team have gone to matches together in seasons past.

And some, like Jordan Clarkson, may even use the playoff run to jump on the bandwagon.

Clarkson saw Bogdanovic wearing a personalized RSL jersey and said he started to pay a little more attention to the local club.

"I've heard they've been doing really well," Clarkson said.

Though, he admits, there's still plenty to learn; in fact, he used his media session to figure some things out.

"Is the game here?" he asked. It's not, and he reacted when an, "Ah, boo," upon finding that out.

"It's just one game?" Yes, it is single elimination.

"If they made it to the finals, where are they playing?" Either New York or Philadelphia, depending on who wins the Eastern Conference Finals.

OK, so Clarkson, who admitted he's not the biggest soccer fan — "If it's a good game, I'll watch" — may not be able to give scouting reports like Bogdanovic can, but they agree on one thing: "I hope they win," Clarkson said. "That would be lit."

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