The Slovenia Times

The Dragić brothers - A Tale of Two Dragons


Goran went on to become the "Most Improved Player" in the NBA with his Phoenix Suns team, while Zoran became a regular member of the starting five for his Spanish team, Unicaja Malaga, which finished fourth in the national championship. We caught up with them to hear their opinions.

Q: What did you notice first in terms of everyday life and organisation when you joined your first international club?

A: Goran: The biggest difference is that, in the US, every detail is taken care of and you can really focus on playing basketball. With regard to the way of life, you can see that compared to Europe everything goes a little faster but at the same time also with a bit less personality.

A: Zoran: The club is organisationally at a higher level, which is normal because the club itself is bigger. The quality of competition is also different - we play in the strongest European national championship plus the EuroLeague. Life in Spain is different at first sight and especially as it has the seaside and it is a little more laid-back.

Q: Let's picture a game where you are the Man of the Match or maybe even scored the decisive points. What do you think privately after such a game, at home?

A: Goran: It is a fact that such a game stays in your mind a little longer but, in principle, I try to forget each game as soon as possible and concentrate on the next one. Playing up to five games in a week, the schedule in the NBA is hectic and so we can't actually afford to think too much about past games.

A: Zoran: I rewind the play. I might watch it in the replay but in the next moment my mind is focused on the next game.

Q: How long after an important game, in front of a large number of spectators, do you still feel the adrenaline rush? Can you fall into a peaceful sleep one hour after such a game?

A: Goran: No, you cannot fall asleep that fast. In fact, I need about that much time to recover after a game, then there is also dinner and only then, time for sleep.

A: Zoran: It happens sometimes that you cannot drift to sleep until the wee hours, especially after an important or emotional game. The adrenaline rush lingers on long after a game. Sometimes I can manage it sooner.

Q: Particularly in Europe, it often seems that fans and players take basketball very emotionally. Are we forgetting that it is just a game? How did you recover after the shocking defeat against France at EuroBasket?

A: Goran: It is exactly the fans emotions that make sport, including basketball, what it is. There might be a little less of it in the US; there is not such dedicated and enthusiastic support, especially during the regular season. It changes in the play-offs, but it still cannot compare to the atmosphere that Slovene fans, for example, created during the games at EuroBasket last year. I still get goose bumps when I think of the packed Golovec or Stožice halls. Regarding the game against France, it is a fact that they were better in that game and I can only hope that we have learned something from the experience.

A: Zoran: In Europe, especially in Greece or Belgrade, the atmosphere can sometimes be really crazy. I enjoy such games; I truly love playing them. But of course, the Slovenes are still the best supporters and when we lost against France, I felt more sorry for them than ourselves. We just yearned to present them with a medal at the home championship.

Q: In basketball, the margin narrows in the final minutes. What is going on in the minds of the players of both the leading and the trailing team?

A: Goran: The trailing team is usually at an advantage in these situations, but one single move - a triple pointer, a steal, whatever - by an individual can also decide the outcome. Such moments reveal the character of the team, the chemistry among the players.

A: Zoran: If you are coming back after trailing you are sort of gathering momentum, but if you are leading you usually sort of freeze. In any case, you should be concentrating for the final seconds and stick to the team decisions.

Q: Is it possible to mentally prepare for the nervous last seconds so characteristic of basketball?

A: Goran: Sure. There are some aspects of your own mental preparation, but overall it is usually down to your ability, the team preparation and the number of similar situations that you as an individual or the team as a whole, has experienced.

A: Zoran: In these situations I try hard to follow the coach's instructions and be fully concentrated and focused on what is happening on the court. I wouldn't know how much you can practise for these situations - the more often you play them the better your reaction to them.

Q: Life in the glamorous world of material benefits has its traps. How do you avoid them and keep your head cool?

A: Goran: Of course there are traps, but as far as I am concerned there are no significant changes in my way of life. I think the key factor in this respect is your upbringing.

A: Zoran: I am still far from any enormous material benefits and this is not my main objective anyway; I just genuinely enjoy playing basketball at the highest possible level. In this and other areas, the experiences and advice of my brother Goran are invaluable.

Q: Which aspects of the glamorous life do you like and which not? How do you counterbalance the psychological pressure that you are exposed to as a top athlete?

A: Goran: Like everything in life, this status - which I wouldn't call celebrity - has its advantages and disadvantages. The main sign of being a little more famous is that people tug at your sleeve more often and want a photograph taken with you or at least exchange a few words. My family is my best relaxation; I also like getting back to nature with things such as my inaugural basketball camp later this summer. Working on this project is also a kind of relaxation.

A: Zoran: I'm far from being a star and even if I make it to the NBA one day, I will still be Zoki. It is true that the life of a professional basketball player is rather stressful and the pressure to perform is high in Europe. I relax best in the company of my family.

Q: Apart from family and friends, why do you like coming back to Slovenia for the summer? What "rituals" do you enjoy during the summer break?

A: Goran: Slovenia will always be my home and this in itself is reason enough to look forward to going back every summer. First, I visit my family and then my friends. I try to take a good break from a difficult season. I spend a lot of time with my brother, which I cannot do during the season. I love eating good homemade food, I go on trips around Slovenia and similar.

A: Zoran: Of course I want to stay in Spain as long as possible because it means that my club is still in contention for the national title. But at the same time I can't wait to get back to Slovenia. This year I have a special reason - to see for the first time my nephew Mateo who I wasn't able to see during the season.


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