Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 9/17/13
As an advance scout for the Golden State Warriors and previously for the Chicago Bulls Chris Thomas has spent several late nights during the past five seasons trying to prepare his teams for games against Suns point guard Goran Dragic. Dragic’s adept pick-and-roll play is always a key to Thomas’ scouting reports that go to coaches and players. He reminds them of how dangerous Dragic is in transition. He warns them that Dragic’s stepback jumper is one of the better ones in the NBA. Thomas’ message last season: “If we can stop this guy we’ll put ourselves in a position to be successful.” For someone not on Dragic’s bench Thomas knew Dragic well. Now as someone on the same bench he knows him better. Thomas has spent the past 70 days with Dragic who has led his Slovenian national team to the quarterfinals of the European Championship in his hometown Ljubljana. As a first-year assistant coach for Slovenia Thomas has seen the Dragic that a young Suns team will need this season. “I didn’t realize what a tremendous leader he is by his words and example” Thomas said. “I marvel at how our guys look up to him on a daily basis. It’s impressed me beyond what I can express.” Thomas has an incredible seat for Slovenia’s greatest athletic moment. Slovenia is the center of the basketball universe this month. A nation of 2 million people is hosting Europe’s premier basketball event and the home team is two wins from its first medal ever. Slovenia which already has a win against two-time defending champion Spain will face France at noon (Arizona time) Wednesday on NBATV. Tony Parker Boris Diaw and Nicolas Batum will be famous French names on the floor but the green-clad faithful at Stozice Arena will be chanting “Go-gi Go-gi Go-gi” for Dragic. “It’s the loudest 10000 people I’ve ever heard in my life” Thomas said. “Goran is absolutely a rock star.” Dragic after only playing five minutes of a meaningless Monday loss to Finland is averaging 15.2 points 4.4 assists 3.1 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 23.2 minutes per game for Slovenia. He is shooting 39 percent from the field but the low clip is a product of how he has a greater burden to score and create than Parker who has seven NBA teammates or Spain’s Ricky Rubio with five NBA veterans. The closest Dragic gets to NBA help is Rasho Nesterovic serving as a mentor in the program. Beno Udrih is not playing. Dragic’s brother Zoran was a Houston summer-league player last year. Spain second only to the U.S. in world basketball threw Rubio Sergio Rodriguez Sergio Llull and Rudy Fernandez at Dragic in waves to wear him down. Slovenia won 78-69 with 18 points and seven rebounds from Dragic. “Every punch they threw at him he had a counterpunch” Thomas said. “We’ve had stretches where he’s put the entire team on his back and carried us especially offensively.
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