Earlier this summer, Chicago Bulls signee Goran Dragic made a surprising return to international competition with the Slovenian national team. In an effort to help his nation qualify for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, he played in two games and averaged 19.5 points and 2.5 assists while shooting 48% from the field.
As a result, the Slovenians were able to secure a spot in the second round of qualification, which is slated to tip off later this month.
It was an incredibly successful comeback to FIBA play for Dragic, who hadn’t suited up for Slovenia in five years. And even as he’s not expected to be with the team for the next round of qualifiers, the 36-year-old baller apparently isn’t ready to settle back into retirement from the national program.
Per a social media post from the man himself, Dragic will be wearing his country’s jersey again in another major tournament that’s right around the corner.
Dragic: ‘I’m Back’
That caption accompanied a snap that was taken in the wake of the 2017 EuroBasket final which saw Slovenia beat out Serbia for the gold medal. Dragic also tagged Europe’s premiere hoops tournament in the post, indicating that he would be returning to the event in September.
Dragic suiting up again in EuroBasket competition is significant for two reasons. Firstly, that 2017 final was his previous FIBA swan song, and he finished it as the competition’s Most Outstanding Player. Secondly, the tourney win yielded the country’s first-ever international basketball gold.
So, there’s a significant amount of history for the Bulls guard there. Whether history can repeat itself remains to be seen, though.
Slovenia Has a Hard Road Ahead
Slovenia may currently be holding down the fifth spot in the FIBA world rankings, and the Dragic-Luka Doncic pairing is a formidable one, but it could nonetheless be tough sledding for the nation on the road to another gold.
The team finds itself in a difficult Group B alongside such luminaries as France, Lithuania and Germany. Moreover, a run to the final game would see Slovenia playing nine times in 19 days. So, to say that it’s going to be a grind for Dragic and Co. is probably underselling the situation.
On the plus side, the extra run could pay dividends for Dragic, who spent much of last season on the sidelines/in limbo as a member of the Toronto Raptors before getting his cup of coffee with the Brooklyn Nets down the stretch.
If he can show that he’s still a consistent performer internationally, that should bode well for his ability to play a considerable role for the title-chasing Bulls in 2022-23.