At 4:12 of Saturday’s first quarter, Bojan Bogdanovic subbed in for the 691st NBA game of his career but first as a member of the Knicks.
The crowd erupted in cheers as a welcome, and Bogdanovic himself clapped his hands as life began with his sixth NBA team.
The Croatian forward’s initial reaction was one of appreciation.
“It’s crazy. I think that we all European players dream to play in the Garden,” Bogdanovic said after the 125-111 loss to the Pacers. “So being able to be part of the Knicks, it’s really special for me.
“The building was on fire the whole game. So I really appreciate the support and love that they showed me today.”
Even before the game, Bogdanovic was impressed.
He has played in dozens of games as a visitor in New York — and spent his first 2 ¹/₂ seasons in Brooklyn, from 2014-17, though he said all his area friends are Knicks fans — but had not received the raucous cheers at the Garden before.
The atmosphere of his new home crowd while playing for a contender might have loomed as especially large after spending the first half of the season with the eight-win Pistons.
“Just pregame and energy around the building, the arena is different,” Bogdanovic said. “It’s kind of a playoff atmosphere for every single game.”
He could have drawn up his first game better, scoring 11 points on 3 of 10 shooting as he adjusts to new offensive and defensive schemes on the fly. He met with coach Tom Thibodeau on Friday, when he learned basic plays. The 10-year veteran said it usually takes a few games before he feels comfortable in a new system.
Bogdanovic will have to wait two weeks before playing his second game as a Knick at the Garden. Beginning Monday in Houston, the Knicks will play three straight games on the road bridging the All-Star break and don’t return home until Feb. 24 against the Celtics.
OG Anunoby (right elbow surgery) and Julius Randle (dislocated right shoulder) will miss their eighth straight games against the Rockets. Mitchell Robinson (left ankle surgery) will miss a 33rd straight.
For the Rockets, Aperen Sengun, who missed their game Saturday, is questionable with lower back pain.
Fred VanVleet (left adductor strain), Cam Whitmore (right ankle sprain) and Tari Eason (left leg injury management) have been ruled out.