Dragic Optimistic In Houston; Pops Debut

01.03.2011

Basketball In Europe

11. Goran Dragic (Slovenia)
Slovenia point guard Goran Dragic moves to Texas after two and a half years in Arizona. He'd played for the Phoenix Suns ever since leaving Olimpija Ljubljana in 2008

Dragic Ready For New Challenge

Goran Dragic didn't expect to leave the Phoenix Suns, where he'd been dubbed the heir apparent to Steve Nash.

But in basketball, there are no guarantees and the Slovenia international was dealt to the Houston Rockets last week with Phoenix getting Aaron Brooks in return.

"I'm ready, and optimistic," Dragic said immediately upon his arrival in Houston.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey had a lot more to say.

"We have been interested in Goran dating back to the 2008 Draft," he said.

"He is a tough, competitive guard with proven play-off experience who has matured into a solid point guard over the past few seasons."

Dragic backed up Nash at Phoenix and now he's behind Kyle Lowry in the point guard pecking order.

Lowry turns 25 later this month while Dragic celebrates his 25th birthday in May.

In Saturday's win over New Jersey, Lowry played 30 minutes and had 10 points and nine assists.

Dragic, on his Rockets debut, played 11 very productive minutes and had two steals, an assist and rebound to go with his six points.

Since his arrival, Morey has offered even more analysis of the Slovenian.

"Dragic has a pretty similar career arc to Aaron Brooks," Morey said on the Rockets website.

"He came in pretty unheralded, has contributed significantly to the Suns behind Steve Nash and has had great play-off games just like Aaron did.

"We like Goran here for the future and our point guard position, we felt like Kyle Lowry was our guy to start for the future and Aaron Brooks, as I've always said, we think he's a starter-quality player as well, and very soon both Kyle and Aaron were going to make an amount of money that wouldn't allow us to have both of them on the roster going forward.

"So we made a move for Dragic, who we like his potential very much and he's already contributing and he'll contribute right away for the Rockets."

7. Pops Mensah-Bonsu (Great Britain)
Pops Mensah-Bonsu is a key player for Great Britain. He averaged 19.3 points and 13.5 rebounds in the Eurobasket Qualifying Round last summer

Dragic is likely to be the starting playmaker for Slovenia this summer when they play at the EuroBasket in Lithuania.

Pops Debut

Great Britain are hoping the injury bug stays away from Luol Deng this summer, something that didn't happen in 2009 when he was unable to play at the EuroBasket in Poland.

Another player the Brits will be counting on heavily is Pops Mensah-Bonsu, whose on-again, off-again NBA adventure is a case of the latter now.

Mensah-Bonsu began the season with New Orleans but was let go, and ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne became the beneficiaries last week.

In his debut with the French club, Mensah-Bonsu reminded everyone of his displays last summer with Britain in their successful EuroBasket qualifying campaign by pouring in 27 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, dishing out two assists, coming up with three steals and blocking a shot as ASVEL beat defending champions Cholet.

"Pops gave us good energy early in the game," ASVEL power forward Kim Tillie said.

"It allows us all to properly get up and play well together."

Tillie added: "They had difficult defending one of our tactics so we kept doing it, feeding Pops with balloons and that they caused problems.

"He made good passes, too. It's fun to play with him."

The coach of ASVEL, Nordine Ghrib, said: "Pops brings us some interesting things, including the intensity on defense.

"In attack, of course, there are situations where he makes a difference and scores points.

"It is a good signing."

Injury News

A few players that could feature prominently at the EuroBasket this summer have been struck down by injuries.

Mirza Teletovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina is suffering from patellar tendonitis, which is also known as jumper's knee, and is a big uncertainty for Caja Laboral this week when they go up against Lietuvos Rytas in a pivotal Euroleague Top 16 game.

San Antonio Spurs playmaker Tony Parker, a France international, picked up a calf injury in Sunday's game against Memphis and could be sidelined for a month.

Parker took last summer off to rest in order to be fresh for the EuroBasket in Lithuania.

Danilo Gallinari, whose injury problems have prevented him from representing his country in each of the last four years, had 30 points in his second game with the Denver Nuggets on Friday but fractured his left big toe and is expected to be out of action for 10 days.

He did not play for Denver in their victory over Atlanta on Monday night.

Numerous players are dealing with injuries, including Spain's Victor Claver who fractured a metatarsal in training last week with Power Electronics Valencia.

That problem will sideline him for two months.


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