Brogdon moved from Milwaukee to Indiana after a sign-and-trade in July, but he still received a warm reception from Bucks fans and ex-teammates on Sunday when the Pacers were introduced with "The Grinch" theme song. Brogdon finished with 10 points and 10 assists in 30 minutes in the Pacers' 117-89 loss.
Still, Brogdon made it clear that business is business in the NBA.
"A few weeks before free agency," Brogdon said of when he considered leaving Milwaukee. "I had a pretty good inkling that things may not work out and things may not go in the direction that I thought they were going to go in, so I started to change my mindset and started to identify different teams and prepare myself."
"I would've loved to play for this team, if they had wanted me. If they had valued me the way the Pacers value me. That's all I gotta say."
The Bucks played a video tribute for Brogdon at 5:57 in the first quarter Sunday, and he waved to the crowd afterward coming out of a timeout.
Brogdon, 27, spent his first three seasons in Milwaukee and was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2017.
He entered Sunday's game in a new role with more ballhandling responsibilities.
"That's exactly what it is. It's about a new opportunity, a new challenge," Brogdon said of his desire for a bigger role. "Sort of being a leader of a team now is a totally different role, it's a way bigger role for me, but it's something I've been molded into and something I've prepared myself to do over the past three years.
"This is, I think, something that every respected NBA player wants. They want a team that they can call theirs, they want a team that they can still win at a high level, but they have the ball more in their hands and they can control more of the game."
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said he's occasionally checked Brogdon's statistics in Indiana and hopes he played some small role in Brogdon's current success, but he doesn't feel any regret about how he used Brogdon in Milwaukee's system.
"I do, with guys you've coached, when I look at the box scores, I like to look and see how Malcolm's doing, purely on a box score basis," Budenholzer said. "It looks like he's been really good. I think, probably, the ball is in his hands a lot being the primary playmaker, playing the pick-and-roll, they execute their stuff really well."
Shortly after the Pacers' team bus arrived at Fiserv Forum, George Hill interrupted Brogdon's media scrum with a joke.
"You cut that ugly mustache off, that s--- was trash," Hill said, roasting Brogdon.
"I'm trying to be like you; you don't want me to look like you, bro?" Brogdon responded with a laugh.
A sore back left Brogdon unable to compete in the Pacers' first home game versus Milwaukee, a 102-83 Bucks win, on Nov. 16. But former teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo was looking forward to suiting up against Brogdon on Sunday.
After facing Brogdon, Antetokounmpo said he sees how the Pacers point guard has improved. He also said Brogdon's spacing and ability to find teammates were great, and "the game has slowed down even more for him."
Brogdon even broke out a pair of Antetokounmpo's "Black Iridescent" Zoom Freak 1 signature sneakers for the reunion in Milwaukee, as ex-teammates Khris Middleton, Sterling Brown and D.J. Wilson also embraced him with daps and hugs at half court during pregame warm-ups.
"Can you imagine this team with also Malcolm? He's not even an All-Star, he's a great player," Antetokounmpo had said of Brogdon after the Bucks' 124-115 victory over the Bulls on Nov. 14. "But hey, man, everybody takes their decision. His decision was to go to Indiana and build a team over there. I think that was best for him."
"Definitely wish he was still here. One of my friends, one of the guys that I always teased every day when I see him, call him ugly, we're just going back and forth. I'm going to miss that, but at the end of the day, you got to do what's best for you. I wish him the best, I wish his team the best."