Training camp is still a few weeks away for the Chicago Bulls — and players are just now making their way back to the Windy City for open gym — but Goran Dragic is already out competing for a championship. Namely, the FIBA EuroBasket title, which he and the Slovenians previously captured in 2017.
On Saturday, Dragic, Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic and the rest of the Slovenian squad participated in their first knockout-stage bout. And, as has typically been the case throughout the tournament, they came out with the dub.
Led by Doncic, who dropped 35 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals, Slovenia beat Belgium by an 88-72 score. However, the contest had been surprisingly close up until the final frame when the former outscored the latter 25-12.
“Every time we made a run, they came back — mostly because of our mistakes,” Slovenian coach Aleksander Sekulic said post-game, via FIBA. “I think in the second half we made some adjustments, especially the defense was much better and also they missed some open shots. So it gave us the boost and the lead to finish the game peacefully.”
With the win, Dragic and Co. have officially punched their ticket to the quarterfinal round where they’ll face Poland on Wednesday at Mercedes-BenzArena in Berlin.
Dragic Made His Presence Known Once Again
For his part, Dragic had a measurable positive impact for his country, as Belgium was outscored by a whopping 18 points in the Bulls guard’s 33 minutes on the court. And his box score wasn’t too shabby, either.
Dragic hit double figures for the fifth time in six tourney games, putting up 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting. The 36-year-old also added four rebounds, four assists and two steals in the game.
Five years ago, Dragic had decided to retire from international competition following Slovenia’s big EuroBasket win. It was an incredible way to go out, too, as the backcourt ace dropped a 35-piece on Bogdan Bogdanovic and Serbia to secure his country’s first-ever international gold.
Alas, he simply couldn’t pass on the opportunity to represent his homeland again this summer. In June, he made his comeback as part of Slovenia’s FIBA World Cup qualifying team. And last month, he announced his intention to go for a second-straight European championship, dropping an “I’M BACK” post in dramatic fashion.
In doing so, he’s also given himself a chance to win gold alongside his brother, Zoran Dragic, who missed the last EuroBasket tournament due to injury.
Dragic May End Up Playing Big Minutes for the Bulls
While hooping with one’s national team all summer and then transitioning directly into the NBA season with a team that’s chasing the Larry is no small task, that’s exactly the path that Dragic has chosen. Not only that — he could end up playing major minutes for Billy Donovan’s team.
On September 2, ESPN‘s Jamal Collier and Ramona Shelburne reported that Chicago’s starting floor general, Lonzo Ball, is “expected to miss training camp and is doubtful for the start of the regular season” as he contends with lingering pain in his surgically repaired knee.
If that’s how things end up playing out, some combination of Dragic, Ayo Dosunmu, Coby White and/or Alex Caruso will all have to pick up some of the slack.