Slovenian Squabble: Sasha Vujacic, Goran Dragic Tell Their Side of the Story
PHOENIX -- As a sidelight to what turned out to be a scintillating series, we give you the Slovenian squabble.
It's no doubt headline news in the nation that used to be part of Yugoslavia, with Kobe Bryant having been reduced to a footnote.
Early in the fourth quarter of the Lakers' 111-103 Game 6 Western Conference finals win over Phoenix on Saturday night at US Airways Center, Suns guard Goran Dragic appeared to jaw at fellow Slovenian Sasha Vujacic, a Lakers guard, after Dragic hit a jumper. Then Vujacic lifted his arms up, hitting Dragic.
Dragic went down as if he'd been struck by lightning. Vujacic was assessed a flagrant foul 1 with 11:28 left in the game. That aided a 16-4 spurt by the Suns to start the fourth quarter, which cut the deficit to 95-90.
It marked the second straight game the two had an altercation, following a minor shoving match in Thursday's Game 5, when both got technicals. But the real fireworks came when Vujacic talked about Dragic after Saturday's game.
"I heard somebody talking in my language and talking something about mothers and family,'' Vujacic said of Dragic after his team had wrapped up the series 4-2 to earn a berth against Boston in the NBA Finals. "That's only to be expected from a low human being to do something like that. So I just went like that (putting his arms up). I didn't do nothing like that on purpose. Low human beings can only involve the family and say something stupid like that. But I didn't intentionally want to do anything. If I want to intentionally hurt somebody, I would have done something very differently.
"(What Dragic said) involved me and my family. When that comes in play, it's very, very stupid. You can't expect that from a pro basketball player ... I just went up with my hands. And he was great acting.''
Dragic saw it much differently. Despite replays showing Dragic appearing to jaw at Vujacic, he claimed he didn't say anything.
Approached by FanHouse and told Vujacic called him a "low human being'' and later embellished it to a "very low human being,'' Dragic didn't want to get into a war of words.
"I don't know why he's lying,'' Dragic said of the Vujacic's claims of insulting his family. "But you can ask everybody in my club that I'm not such a person. I don't have a comment on that, really. If he wants to have words with me, he can have it. But I'm not going to battle. I didn't say nothing to him ... He can stay whatever he wants about me, but I'm just going to be quiet.''
Dragic claimed he tried to set matters straight with Vujacic after the incident but that his countryman was not accommodating.
"After that, I came to him ... He just turned around,'' Dragic said.
Neither Slovenian offered specifics as to how this apparent feud might have started. The two haven't played against each other much and never have been teammates except for a brief stretch last summer when they were both on the national team and Vujacic soon left the team due to an injury.
"I never heard of him (until) two years ago,'' said Vujacic, 26, who is in his sixth season while Dragic, 24, is in his second. "I don't know him from the past. I don't know him from back home. We don't know each other ... Some people have issues when you're a champion (Vujacic being on last season's victorious Lakers), and you're trying to be on the top. And they're going to come at you with everything you can ... Our country is a little bit small and there's a great part of jealously between people.''
Dragic also cited the competition between the two even though they barely know each other.
"I don't understand,'' Dragic said. "We don't have history. But now I'm from Slovenia and he's from Slovenia and he wants to demonstrate he's better than me. I want to do the same.''
As for Saturday, Dragic scored 12 points in 18 minutes and Vujacic scored five in 11 minutes. After barely playing most of the playoffs, Vujacic has averaged 5.0 points and 11.5 minutes in the past two games.
That at least gave Vujacic, who hopes the flagrant foul assessed against him will be downgraded by the NBA, something good to talk about after Game 6.
"It's great,'' Vujacic said of playing again. "It's why I'm in L.A. and why I play basketball. Because at the end of the day, when you look at everything, when you don't play, it means that you're not really in your best doing what you know to do best.''
Still, Bryant, who led the Lakers with 37 points, did not take kindly to Vujacic's flagrant foul playing a role in Phoenix's rally. In an interview with TNT immediately after the game, Bryant said he wanted to "kill'' Vujacic after what he did and still wanted to "kill him'' even though the Lakers won.
"He's still breathing,'' Bryant at least assured later.
All of his bashing of Dragic, though, nearly made Vujacic run out of breath.
"There's some limits in life (when) you involve certain things and say certain things,'' Vujacic said of his claims of what Dragic said. "And I didn't expect something like that could take place on a basketball court ... It's very disrespectful and not very nice.''
There is perhaps some additional good news for Vujacic other than the Lakers' win and his increased playing time. There are four other Slovenians in the NBA, but none play for the Celtics.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson.