Heading into the EuroBasket tournament, Chicago Bulls Goran Dragic and his Slovenian teammates look to defend their title. It has been five long years since there has a EuroBasket tournament, one of the biggest basketball tournaments in Europe.
Just hours before Slovenia was set to play in their first 2022 EuroBasket game against Lithuania, there was a hiccup. With players waiting for transportation to the arena, they were soon told that nobody was coming to pick them up.
Dragic was quick to hop on social media and called out FIBA for dropping the ball on getting proper transportation for the defending champions.
The players got to the arena 20 minutes late, and despite a sluggish offensive performance from Luka Doncic, Slovenia prevailed 92 to 85 to kick off their defending title run. Dragic was efficient in 23 minutes off the bench, scoring 19 points on 14 shots.
Teammate Edo Muric told the Slovenia outlet Ekipa24 that the mixup before the game threw a lot of his teammates off their routines.
“When we had to get into a taxi, it wasn’t funny anymore,” Muric said (h/t to PlanetSport for translation) Maybe it fired us up a bit more, we were very nervous. The players have their own rituals in preparation for the match, and that also knocked our composure a bit. I believe it wasn’t deliberately, at least I try to believe that it is so. You have to go above and beyond, and in the end, the strongest becomes the champion.”
FIBA Responds After Backlash
Even the Slovenia basketball Twitter account sent out a video showing some players’ displeasure as they took taxis to head to the arena.
After the backlash, the FIBA responded by firing the driver responsible for taking the team to the arena.
“The organizing committee of the European Championship also officially apologized to the Slovenian team for the unfortunate incident with the bus before the match on September 1,” Sakis Kontos says on behalf of the FIBA. “It was a mistake by the driver, who did not follow the prescribed driving schedule. This person was immediately dismissed from his position, and an additional control added so that the mistake would not be repeated.”
This is not a good look for FIBA, especially for the defending champions. EuroBasket is one of the biggest tournaments that FIBA hosts, so to drop the ball like this must be embarrassing.
Dragic Gets Honest on His EuroBasket Return
The last time FIBA had a EuroBasket tournament, Dragic led his home country of Slovenia to a 9-0 tournament record and won the nation first ever championship in 2017. Luka Doncic was only 18 at the time, so the team was squarely on Dragic’s shoulders as he carried the team back then.
Dragic admitted recently with EuroHoops that he is not the same now as he was back in 2017.
“Happy,” Dragic said when asked about his return to EuroBasket. “I’m old, I’m 36. My legs are a little bit… they aren’t the same as five years ago… definitely, they’re not.”
This is probably not the news that Bulls fans want to hear, especially with the news that Lonzo Ball is not expected to play to start the regular season. Regardless, Dragic can still be lethal if he is used in short spurts.