With training camp approaching, the Phoenix Suns are going on a European vacation.
OK, not all of the Suns, just the GM and head coach.
And vacation is misnomer.
Ryan McDonough and Jeff Hornacek are in Slovenia, which is hosting the European Championships.
The tournament lasts three-and-a-half weeks. They’ll be there the first week, watching two of their more important assets: Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat.
Dragic is the star point guard for host Slovenia; Gortat is the leading big man for Poland.
Viacheslav Kravtsov, just acquired from Milwaukee in the Caron Butler trade, is also in action, playing for Ukraine, which is led by former NBA coach and current TNT analyst Mike Fratello.
Dragic and Gortat, however, are the main attractions, at least for the Suns.
“Those are obviously two of our best players. We felt like it would be a great way to get our time with those guys started,” McDonough said.
He and Hornacek have kept in touch with both players throughout the summer either via text, email or over the phone.
“We’re trying to let those guys know that even though they’re either in Orlando or primarily overseas that we’re connected with them and that they’re part of the program,” McDonough said. “We’ve invested a lot in them, and we’ll continue to do so.”
The Suns, recently, sent coaches to work with both players. Assistant Jerry Sichting as well as assistant athletic trainer/head strength and conditioning coach Mike Elliott were in Slovenia, while assistant Kenny Gattison joined Gortat in Orlando.
“They gave them things to work on,” Hornacek said. “We’ll see if they incorporated some of that in their workouts this summer.”
Gortat returned to Phoenix last month to have his right foot examined, but he’s fine according to McDonough.
“He’s played very well in the warm-up games, the exhibition games before the EuroBasket. I mean if you look at his numbers per minute they’re off the charts,” McDonough said. “He says he feels good and he’s ready to go.”
Dragic, meanwhile, has picked up where the season left off. He’s played well in tune-up games, including hitting a game-winning shot in one and getting ejected in another after he shoved a Turkish player.
“I like that,” Hornacek said. “If you’re a competitor…things like that happen. That’s good to see the fight. That’s how much pride Goran—you can tell he takes in playing the game of basketball. He wants to win and those are just, to me, are little signs of truly of how much he wants it.”
During the initial round-robin pool play, each country will play five games in six days with Dragic and Gortat’s teams matched up against one another on September 9.
“It’s really there being supportive of them during these big games for them,” Hornacek said.