Dragic says his retirement from international game is final
MIAMI (AP) — Goran Dragic is not going to play for Slovenia in this summer’s Olympic qualifying tournament, insisting Thursday that he will not change his stance on being retired from international basketball.
The Miami Heat guard has a slew of reasons why he won’t change his mind, including his looming free agency this summer, a desire to spend as much quality time as possible with his family and that at his age — he’ll be 34 in May — another offseason of playing simply wouldn’t be the best thing for his body.
Dragic said after leading Slovenia to its best sports moment, a gold medal at the 2017 European championships, that he was done with the international game.
“When I was younger I showed my nation that I would always play for my national team, no matter who was there,” Dragic said. “If we had a good team or a bad team, I was there. I feel like I gave everything that I have and at this point in my career, my body isn’t the same and I have to be smart.”
Slovenia has not qualified for the Olympics. It is among 24 teams left in the race for the last four spots at the Tokyo Games, and will have to win a six-team qualifying tournament in Lithuania from June 23-28 to make the field.
There has been, and likely will continue to be, sentiment in Slovenia that Dragic — who is averaging 15.8 points this season and flourishing in an off-the-bench role for the Heat — should play for the national team again.
Not even the lure of going to an Olympics can change his mind.
“Summer is busy with the kids and I have to always put them first,” Dragic said.
Dragic is one of three Slovenians in the NBA. Dallas star Luka Doncic is one; the other is little-used Denver rookie Vlatko Cancar. Both Doncic and Cancar were on the Eurobasket team in 2017, when Dragic was that tournament’s MVP.
Dragic said before that Eurobasket tournament that it would be his international finale, win or lose.
“I need to be smart,” Dragic said. “I played for 12, 13 years nonstop. That takes a toll on your body. We have a young national team and they need to grow as a group with Luka as the leading man. He needs to be the leader, to get that team to grow together and I think he’ll do an amazing job.”
Dragic averaged 22.6 points and 5.1 assists in the nine games at the 2017 Eurobasket tournament. His 35 points in the title game — a win over rival Serbia — was the high for the tournament.
That was his gold medal. He doesn’t need another.
“It was the fairytale ending,” Dragic said. “I made peace with it. I gave everything and now it’s time to do my job as a husband, as a father, for my family and that’s it.”
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