PHOENIX — Goran Dragic has a hard time saying “no,” whether it’s to his family, friends, teammates, heck, even to the media — he’s one of the more accommodating players in the Valley and the entire NBA.
Dragic also apparently can’t say “no” to playing for his national team.
The Suns starting point guard had considered skipping this summer’s World Cup, formerly known as the World Championships, in favor of rest and family time. But after a month off, Dragic decided — with the Suns’ blessing — to once again suit up for his native Slovenia.
“When you come from a small country like that there is a lot of pressure to play from the fans, the media and people around you. I think he felt some of that pressure,” Suns GM Ryan McDonough told Arizona Sports on Wednesday.
“Obviously, it’s a great honor to play for your national team.”
Dragic logged the 29th-most minutes of any player this past season.
And while he did establish career highs in scoring and shooting, leading to him being named Most Improved Player, Dragic admitted that nine straight months of non-stop basketball — including competing in last summer’s European Championships — left him exhausted at the end of the season.
“I’m sad that we’re finishing the season, but at the same time, I need a break,” he told reporters in April. “My body, I was falling apart the last couple of games.”
In addition to the minutes played, Dragic dealt with a number of bumps and bruises, missing a total of six games, five for a left ankle sprain and one for a right ankle sprain; not to mention the games he perhaps should not have played in because of his ankles, midsection or times he was hit in the head.
All the “dings and bruises and sprains, those have healed” according to McDonough.
“We’re going to work with the Slovenian Federation to come up with a program that makes sense for him and for us as well,” he said. “We’re obviously going to encourage him to play, but at the same time, we want to be respectful about how minutes he played this year and what kind of shape we’d like him to be in coming into the season next year to try to preserve his body for the year next year as well.”
The hope, continued McDonough, is that Dragic does not play in all the exhibition games, limits his practice time and “just really (focuses) on getting ready for the actual World Cup in Spain,” which runs August 30 through September 14.
The Suns have neither discouraged nor told Dragic to not play for his national team, and they won’t start now.
“I think it can be a positive thing for him and for us. It certainly was last year when he played in the European Championships in Slovenia. He was all-tournament team and all that and he came out and had the best year of his career,” McDonough said.
“The good news is the World Cup ends even earlier than the EuroBasket did last year. That was one of the challenges is that he basically went right from the European Championships into training camp. He really didn’t have a break and he was exhausted the first couple of days of training camp. This year, I think, we’ll be better prepared for it in terms of limiting his schedule going into the event and he’ll be better prepared for it having been through it last year and then also, like I said, having the event conclude earlier than the European Championships did.”