Team USA Notebook: No Slovenian Squabble at World Championship
You might recall the Slovenian Squabble during last spring's Western Conference finals between Goran Dragic's Phoenix Suns and Sasha Vujacic's Los Angeles Lakers, when the countrymen went at each other. After the deciding Game 6, which the Lakers won to advance to the NBA Finals, Vujacic called Dragic a "low human being'' due to allegedly insulting his family while Dragic said Vujacic was lying.
Perhaps it's good for Slovenia that only Dragic is playing in the World Championship here even if Dragic claims he would have been able to get along on the same team with Vujacic.
"We are professionals,'' Dragic said in an interview with FanHouse after scoring 16 points in an 80-56 win over Tunisia on Saturday, the day before his team faces the Americans. "We are playing for our national team. So if you have something against each other, we don't have to make this on the court.''
Dragic and Vujacic, who elected not to play for the national team after helping the Lakers to a second straight NBA title, definitely have something against each other. Dragic talked Saturday about how he tried to shake Vujacic's hand after Game 6 and was shunned.
"Now you see what kind of person he is," said Dragic, who said he hasn't had any contact with Vujacic since that May 29 game. "After (Game 6), I tried to shake his hand and wish him good luck in the Finals. If he doesn't want to talk to me, that's fine. ... He didn't shake my hand. The next time we're going to see each other, we're going to see what is going to happen."
The next time the teams run into each other is Oct. 29 in Phoenix. Goran said he's not sure whether he will try to approach Vujacic or whether it's Vujacic's responsibility to attempt to make peace with him.
"We're going to see," Goran said. "It's too soon to talk about it."
At least the two Slovenians won't be causing any disruptions by talking to each other on the court during the World Championship.
Homecourt Edge: No, the Americans won't be playing Turkey on Sunday. But it still will feel like a road game.
There were 4,000 Slovenians on hand for the Tunisia game and at least that many are expected Sunday. Most of them were dressed Saturday in the team's green colors and they made plenty of noise. The Americans saw it first hand since they played the game afterward, a 106-78 win over Croatia.
"Very loud. I thought it was somewhere close to here," Team USA forward Rudy Gay said of Slovenia, which has its nearest border about 700 miles northwest of Istanbul. "Down the street or something."
It sure felt that way to Goran.
"We felt like we were at home (against Tunisia)," Goran said. "I would say we're going to play well (against the Americans). The fans are going to be on our side and we're going to play hard and give everything we have."
Chandler Chants: The Americans were walloping Croatia in the waning minutes when backup center Tyson Chandler threw down a vicious dunk and began yelling with excitement to no one in particular. He soon repeated the scene after getting a nice block on Croatian guard Roko Ukic.
Chandler didn't reveal he was yelling anything specific. He said he just wanted to keep things spirited even though the game no longer was in doubt.
"I want to bring as much energy as possible," said Chandler, 27, the team's third-oldest player. "I want to send a message to a lot of the younger guys that even though (the game was lopsided) we want to go hard until the end and represent our country. The games will get tougher and we want to send a message.
"It was just me being emotional. It was my emotions coming out. It wasn't intended to be disrespectful to anybody. It was more of my emotions. I take pride in wearing this jersey. Every second I'm out there, I'm going to give everything I've got."
There was no yelling by Chandler at the free-throw line considering he bricked both his attempts. In fact, starter Lamar Odom also went 0-of-2, making U.S. centers 0-of-4 from the line.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson