Goran Dragic

Watch Luka Dončić go coast-to-coast with sweet slam for Slovenia

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Slovenia won its first European basketball championship on Sunday, defeating Serbia 93-85 in Istanbul behind 35 points by Goran Dragic.

Dragic, the Miami Heat guard who was voted MVP of the tournament after the game, watched the final four minutes from the bench due to cramp. He had been visibly tiring, missing all three shots and the one free throw he took in the final quarter.

With Dragic out, Serbia briefly took the lead at 79-78, and again at 82-80 with 3:37 to go. But Slovenia, which had upset pre-tournament favorite Spain 92-72 in the semifinals, refused to fold. It went on a 12-0 run, during which guard Klemen Prepelic scored the go-ahead basket, 84-82, with 2:20 to go.

After a balanced first quarter, which ended with Serbia 22-20 ahead, Dragic scored 20 of Slovenia’s 36 points in the second quarter to help give it a 56-47 halftime lead.

“We gave them a lot of transition points. They brought the NBA speed on the floor,” Serbia coach Aleksandar Djordjevic said.

“We are an uptempo team … the importance of the game shouldn’t change what we do,” said Slovenia’s Serb coach, Igor Kokoskov.

Djordjevic responded by taking out his 2.21-meter (7-foot-3) center Boban Marjanovic of the Detroit Pistons in favor of more mobile players, who managed to slow down the pace in the third quarter at the 16,000-seat Sinan Erdem arena. Dragic still managed to score nine points and Slovenia stayed ahead, 71-67, but lost young star Luka Doncic with a sprained ankle.

Bogdan Bogdanovic, who is set to join the Sacramento Kings next season, led Serbia with 22 points.

Kokoskov, also the assistant coach for the Utah Jazz, gave a nod to his boss – coach Quin Snyder.

“He is my dear friend, my boss. He told me `Be prepared for the press conference and say something deep and smart.’ Well, I can’t say anything.”

Dragic may be a nine-year NBA veteran but Kokoskov, the first European to be a full-time assistant coach in the league, has spent 17 seasons there, after a brief stint at college level. He and Dragic worked together at the Phoenix Suns for four seasons (2008-11 and 2012-13)

Earlier, Spain defeated Russia 93-85 to take third place, with 51 points coming from the Gasol brothers, Pau (26) and Marc (25). Alexey Shved led Russia with 18.

Watch Kristaps Porzingis’ 34-point night in elimination game in EuroBasket

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The MVP of EuroBasket is probably Goran Dragic, who has been nothing short of amazing averaging 21 points and 5.4 assists per game, and hitting 37.5 percent from three in leading Slovenia to the title game.

After him, it might be Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks big man averaged 27.2 points a game, shooting 37.5 percent from three, and getting to the line almost seven times a game.

Porzingis dropped 34 points and pulled down six boards in Latvia’s quarterfinal game against Dragic’s Slovenia, but it wasn’t enough (that was the same game where KP got into it with Anthony Randolph). Still, his highlights from that game are worth watching — and are a reminder the Knicks need to get him the ball more this season and run the offense through him.

Isaiah Thomas: “I am not damaged… I’ll be the same player”

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Isaiah Thomas has made a career out of proving everyone wrong. He was the dead-last 60th pick in the 2011 draft (the one where Kyrie Irving went No. 1), those guys almost never see an NBA game. Thomas proved a fan favorite in Sacramento — he will forever be the Pizza Guy — but the Kings traded him to Phoenix in a salary dump for Alex Oriakhi and a trade exception. The Suns, already with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic on the roster, didn’t have space for Thomas, so he ended up in Boston in a three-team trade. The consensus was he could be a good sixth man for a Boston team on the rise. Instead, he became a fan favorite and last season put together an All-NBA, fifth in the MVP voting season.

So don’t try to tell him this hip injury is going to set him back. We’re looking at you, Cleveland.

Here is what Thomas told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

“I am not damaged,” Thomas told ESPN on Tuesday. “I’ll be back, and I’ll be the same player….

“There’s never been an indication that I wouldn’t be back, and there’s never been an indication that this is something messing up my career,” Thomas told ESPN. “Maybe I am not going to be back as soon this season as everyone wants me to be, but I’m going to be back, and I’m going to be the same player again. No doctor has told me anything different than that.”

Right now the Celtics and Cavaliers are hammering out potential extra compensation for the Cavaliers as part of the Kyrie Irving trade (which likely will be a second round pick or two). Cleveland’s doctors saw things differently than Boston’s — both seemed to think the labrum tear could heal without surgery, but Cleveland’s doctors seem much more concerned about a re-injury without the surgery to fix underlying issues. (Thomas, understandably, would oppose surgery that would keep him out part of a contract year and raise questions.)

Thomas is one of the better offensive point guards in the NBA right now — and the league is loaded with a golden age of point guards — and he got there in part because of a chip on his shoulder. He uses every slight, every obstacle as fuel. Go ahead and add this to the mix. When he does suit up for Cleveland this season he is going to bring some fire to a team that can put it in cruise control and coast at points in the regular season.

Whether teams will give him max money — or more unlikely, max years — next summer is another question. Thomas may be wearing slides with Brinks trucks on them, but teams are going to be hesitant to fully back the truck up. Which will just add fuel to his fire.

Dion Waiters on Kyrie Irving-Heat trade possibility: ‘Just know there’s an alpha male over there too in myself’

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Kyrie Irving requested a trade from the Cavaliers, apparently to escape LeBron James‘ shadow.

Though a trade with the Heat appears unlikely, they made Irving’s list of preferred destinations. They have a replacement point guard (Goran Dragic) and several wings (Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder and Okaro White) who could help Cleveland.

Miami also has Dion Waiters, Irving’s former Cavs teammate and sometimes-nemesis.

What would Waiters think of Irving getting traded to Miami?

Waiters in an interview with HipHopSince1987 (hat tip: Ryne Nelson of Slam):

It would help. I’m not against that. Just know there’s an alpha male over there too in myself.

I think that’s my biggest thing with everybody. Just, “Oh he got irrational confidence.” Man, I tell everybody, if I can make it from here, I can make it from anywhere. My mom got shot. My dad got shot. C’mon bro. There ain’t nothing that I haven’t seen. Why not? I need that confidence to get through. Every day, I need that confidence to get by. Every day. It ain’t got nothin’ to do with ball. It’s who I am. It was instilled in me, man.

But you know, there’s an alpha male over there already. If you come there, we can boogie together.

First of all, there’s introspection from Waiters I haven’t always heard from him. It’s hard to be irrationally confident if you can take a step back and logically evaluate your own confidence.

Waiters also denied a rift with Irving (which both players always have and was never believable) and said he’s unsurprised by Irving’s trade request. It wouldn’t surprise me if Waiters resents how he was always the villain in the dynamic between himself and Irving when they both share similar mentalities. Nobody would have been surprised by Waiters wanting to leave a winning LeBron-led team to lead his own team. Irving’s trade request shocked the masses.

Of course, perception isn’t the only difference between Waiters and Irving. Irving is way better, which is why most expected Waiters to get in line behind Irving.

There’d be the same expectation in Miami, which seems miserable for everyone involved – even if Waiters says he’s ready to boogie.

Heat: We didn’t offer Cavaliers trade for Kyrie Irving

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The Heat were among the six (or more) teams that have submitted a trade offer to the Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Fake news, says Miami.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

Teams rarely go on the record to correct reports like this. Why did Miami do it here? It might have something to do with Pat Riley’s feelings toward LeBron James.

Other incentives are more clear. The Cavs want to showcase interest they’re receiving in Irving. The Heat want to protect their players from handling trade rumors.

Whether the Heat submitted a formal offer barely matters, anyway. They could’ve offered Goran Dragic straight up for Kyrie Irving. Cleveland wouldn’t have accepted that, anyway. Nobody has published specifics of any Irving offers, so it’s unclear any are viable.

Miami is willing to deal Dragic and Justise Winslow for Irving, per the same report from Wojnarowski. Again, whether the Heat offered that pair for Irving or just acknowledged that they would is splitting hairs. That shouldn’t be enough for the Cavs.

Bottom line: The Heat probably won’t trade for Irving. Whether they made an offer, planned to make an offer or just discussed parameters so far is a fight over imaging. It’s nearly irrelevant to whether the teams eventually complete a trade for Irving.