Heat’s Goran Dragic “open” to playing for national team again if it qualifies for 2020 Olympics

After leading Slovenia to the EuroBasket title this summer, Goran Dragic said he’s ‘open’ to returning to his national team if it qualifies for 2020 Olympics.

MIAMI – Goran Dragic’s career with his national team may not be over just yet.

After speaking with a coach from his Slovenian team on Monday, the Miami Heat point guard told the Palm Beach Post he would consider playing in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, if the team qualifies.

“He was just (asking) if I would play in the Olympics,” said Dragic, who will turn 34 in 2020. “Of course, I told him I’m done playing now, but you never know what’s going to happen in three years.

“So, it’s kind of open.”

Dragic added he would not play in the qualifying.

“They said we know it’s impossible to play in the qualifying because of the system and the NBA,” he said.

Slovenia has never qualified for the Olympics in basketball.

“That’s why it would be special,” Dragic said.

A total of 12 teams will participate in the Olympics through several qualifying tournaments.

Dragic said in April he would be retiring from international play following the EuroBasket last summer and reiterated that claim following the tournament in which he was the MVP.

But after leading Slovenia to an improbable championship pressure is mounting for him to play again.

Slovenia gained its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and it’s first Summer Olympics was 1992. In EuroBasket, the highest it ever placed prior to winning this year was fifth in 2013. Slovenia has played in the FIBA Basketball World Cup three times, never placing higher than seventh.

Dragic averaged team-highs of 22.6 points and 5.0 assists, along with 4.4 rebounds, in the EuroBasket. He scored 35 points and had seven rebounds and three assists in Slovenia’s 93-85 victory over Serbia in the Gold Medal game on Sept. 17.

The team was feted by a crowd of approximately 20,000 who welcomed them in the center of Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, Dragic’s hometown. Dragic was serenaded with chants of “MVP, MVP, MVP.” The championship game was the most-watched event on television in the country. Dragic was told 94 percent of the country tuned in.

“He’s a champion,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I love the fact that Goran put himself out there, made himself vulnerable and really felt all the emotions, the angst, the joy, the frustration, the sleepless nights of getting ready for important game.

“You only experience those things at that level when you really care and you really want to drive a team to win. He was able to do something really remarkable, it really was.”

The performance sent Dragic’s popularity soaring in the country of just more than two million. He received one of Slovenia’s highest civilian honors and some suggested he run for president in his homeland. Although he was not on the ballot for the election, which was held Sunday, he was told he received several write-in votes.

Dragic said he has no interest in a career in politics. Slovenia is the homeland of first lady Melania Trump.

“I want to work with children after basketball,” he said.

[Miami Heat to honor Goran Dragic for EuroBasket MVP award before Saturday’s home opener]

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