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A man of mystery: Bogdanovic remains secretive figure to former Jazz teammates

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SALT LAKE CITY — Mike Conley has a special handshake with Bojan Bogdanovic; that's more significant than you might think.

For three seasons, Conley and Jordan Clarkson spent hours in the gym with Bogdanovic. They traversed the country over and over with him, and shared countless laughs in the locker room together.

So those two, obviously, have a pretty good idea of who the former Jazzman is, right?

Maybe not.

"He's mysterious," said Clarkson with a wide smile.

Bogdanovic can definitely give that vibe, with his velvet jumpsuit and large duffel bag. In his time with Utah, he was often the first player to head out of the practice facility and made a point to get changed quickly after games, too. The media learned that if they wanted to catch Bogdanovic before he left the arena, they had to get to the locker room quick.

Where was he off to in such a hurry?

It simply could have been him just being a "man's man," as Detroit coach Dwayne Casey described him. Work was done, why linger? Or was there something much more complex involved.

That's all part of the mystery.

"You don't know what he does," Clarkson said. "He might have ran like 40 Top 500 Wall Street companies or ran 80 food chain restaurants that are big time — you never know. I just know he's a boss and he'd get it done."

That is why Clarkson thought the fancy jumpsuits and the big bag fit him perfectly.

"You don't know what's in it. Cash?" he said, laughing. "You don't know."

Clarkson's imagined secret life of Bogdanovic is likely much more exciting than reality, or maybe it's not. It's simply hard to know for sure, and that's the way Bogdanovic would like to keep it.

Every now and then he'd allow people to see a different side of him. Conley fondly remembers him swearing loudly in Croatian whenever he'd lose a card game on the team plane.

"I miss that," Conley said through a smile.

Bogdanovic even begrudgingly allowed Conley to come up with a handshake for the two.

When the two first got together during an introductory press conference after they both landed with the Jazz, Conley suggested they come up with a greeting. That's kind of Conley's thing; it definitely is not Bogdanovic's. But the two thought of something simple, and it stuck.

Still, that doesn't mean Conley is an expert on Bogdanovic, but he just might be closer than anyone else.

"He said he doesn't have a handshake with anybody, so I think it's about as close as you can get, and I still don't know," Conley said.

The one thing his former teammates did know: Bogdanovic delivered on the court.

He hit a game-winning 3-pointer in just his fifth home game in Utah. That moment cemented his Jazz legacy right then and there. Bogdanovic called that early shot his favorite memory in a Jazz jersey, and there was plenty to choose from.

He added another game winner against Houston during his first season; he scored a career high 48 points against Denver in 2021; and there were the three playoff series he played in, too. All were fond memories for the forward who turned out to be one of Utah's best free agent signings ever.

"This is one of the best organizations," he said. "So I was really, really happy to be part of this organization, and I still think the Jazz have some of the best fans."

Bogdanovic watched from afar as the Jazz deconstructed the roster last summer. He heard the rumors and saw the deals being made, and he waited. And waited. And waited.

He was proud of the basketball the Jazz had played, but injuries to himself, Conley and Donovan Mitchell at inopportune times held the team back from reaching its full potential.

And with Mitchell and Rudy Gobert gone, he expected to follow.

"I was just waiting to see what's gonna happen with me and where I'm gonna end up," he said. "You know how that works, it is not in the player's power, so you just sit out there and wait to see what's gonna happen."

At long last, he had to deal with a bit of mystery himself.

In the third quarter of Detroit's win over Utah in Bogdanovic's first trip back to Salt Lake City since being traded, Clarkson knocked the ball away from Bogdanovic and then helped him up from the ground. The two shared a quick hug and the crowd reacted to the wholesome moment with a collective "ah!"

Whoever Bogdanovic is between games, there's no doubt there's still love between the former teammates.

"That's my guy always," Clarkson said.

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