Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Sept. 18) -- Goran Dragic dominates to lift Slovenia to FIBA EuroBasket title

This morning’s headlines:

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Heat star Dragic steals the show at EuroBasket — If there is anything to a player’s summer work catapulting his performance for the NBA regular season, the Heat’s Goran Dragic should be in store for a pretty spectacular time in Miami this season. He propelled Slovenia to its first EuroBasket title and earned MVP honors just days before Miami’s training camp opens. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has more:

Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic punctuated Slovenia’s run to its first EuroBasket championship with a 35-point performance Sunday in a 93-85 victory over Serbia in the title game in Istanbul, Turkey, watching the closing stages from the bench due to cramps.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” he said of what quickly turned into a national celebration in his country of two million.

Sealing his Most Valuable Player run in the tournament, Dragic scored 20 points in the second period (which are 10 minutes in international competition) to help push his team to a nine-point lead at the intermission.

“I mean, it’s an unbelievable feeling,” Dragic said of his second-quarter binge. “Of course you want to play well in the final.

“They put me in the right positions so I can attack and be myself.”

Dragic closed 12 of 22 from the field, with seven rebounds and three assists, converting three 3-pointers.

“The second half, cramps,” Dragic said of the treatment he took on the bench.

Slovenia coach Igor Kokoskov, an assistant with the Utah Jazz, said his only option at the end was to turn elsewhere after Dragic positioned his team for the victory.

“He couldn’t play for a quarter,” Kokoskov said. “He was cramping on the side, he was laying on the floor. It wasn’t my decision, it was just the body. His body was quitting on Goran.”

The 35 points are the most by a Slovenian player in international competition.

The lone active NBA player on Slovenia’s roster, Dragic nearly single-handedly fended off a Serbia roster that includes NBA players Bogdan Bogdanovic and Boban Marjanovic.

Dragic, 31, announced on the eve of the tournament that this would be his final international competition.

Asked if he would attempt to convince Dragic to stay on with the national team, Kokoskov said, “We didn’t have a chance to talk about it. At this point, we’re just going to enjoy the moment.”

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Warriors do their part in Irma relief effort for animals — Talk about an interesting offseason. While the rest of the NBA landscape changed dramatically for the competition, continuity was the name of the game of the reigning-champion Golden State Warriors. That doesn’t mean they weren’t impacted by tumultuous times off the court, as hurricanes in Texas and Florida impacted the lives of millions of Americans. The Warriors did their part in the relief effort, though, helping with some animal rescue efforts recently. Mark Medina of The Mercury News provides the details:

The small puppy shivered as he snuggled into the arms of Warriors rookie forward Jordan Bell. Other dogs barked nervously and wagged their tails excitedly when Bell, Warriors center Zaza Pachulia and player development coach Willie Green greeted them as they sat in crates.

Each interaction struck an emotional chord as members of the Warriors spent Friday assisting with rescue efforts for about 150 dogs and cats displaced from Miami-area shelters because of Hurricane Irma.

“Hopefully we can find families that will get them adopted,” Pachulia said. “I feel really bad. As a human being, you can plan something. I can leave, fly or drive. But animals are stuck there.”

So, Fed EX worked with members of the Miami Heat in placing those animals on a cargo plane. The Warriors then welcomed them upon arrival on late Friday afternoon at the FedEx Oakland Ramp. Bell, Pachulia, Green, former Warriors player Adonal Foyle and Warriors co-owner Joe Jacob greeted various dogs and cats.

Then they worked with members of the Peninsula Humane Society, ASPCA and San Francisco Animal Care & Control to transport the crates onto a loading van. They were then taken to shelters with the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA, Marin Humane or Humane Society for Southwest Washington.

“Us doing this hopefully helps them find a better home,” Bell said.

Pachulia, Bell and Green all considered themselves animal lovers after growing up with dogs. But all three reluctantly passed on adopting any of the rescued animals as pets, mindful of the logistical complications amid a travel-heavy NBA schedule.

“I was tempted to sneak a couple into my car,” Green said, chuckling. “But it probably isn’t the best thing to do.”

Instead, Pachulia plans to get a dog for his wife and four children once he finds more stability entering his 15th NBA season. After playing with the Warriors for the past two years, Pachulia admitted he would like to have a pet “hopefully in the Bay Area.” Meanwhile, Bell sounded content with just enjoying time with his nearly 2-year-old pitbull named “Prince.”

“Hopefully he’s not too jealous,” Bell joked.

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Thomas a perfect fit for Northeast Ohio — Forget all of the drama that has accompanied the trade that brought Isaiah Thomas to the Cleveland Cavaliers and focus on the fit. That’s certainly what some fans in and around Cleveland are doing when it comes to making sense of All-Star and champion Kyrie Irving’s departure and the arrival of another All-Star in Thomas. Ben Tiemann, a Hudson native and guest columnist for, makes the case that Thomas is as Northeast Ohio as one man can be:

Just like us, I.T. has been an underdog his entire life. Undersized, Thomas proved haters wrong when he shined at the University of Washington. He did not stop there, after being picked last in the 2011 NBA Draft, he continued to demonstrate that grinding and grit led way to greatness. If Cleveland were an NBA player, we’d probably be picked last in the draft, too. Now, I.T. faces the next challenge in his recovery.

Both Cleveland and Thomas have been cursed as the punchline of jokes, and both know the only way to respond is through perseverance and actions. But Cleveland is the City of Redemption. The once flammable water of the Cuyahoga River now glistens clean in a national park. Viewed as the face of the Rust Belt, the city has embraced a renaissance of the arts with Playhouse Square and our premier museums. Becoming a hub for startups and revitalization in University Circle, we are not a city of excuses, put rather of innovation and solutions. Just like Cleveland has done, I.T. will return from his injury this season stronger and better than ever.

We don’t respect selfishness or taking the easy way out, we respect embarking on a journey greater than yourself. We are proud of where we come from, and that pride extends to all our sports franchises and players.

Joe Thomas demonstrates hard work through never missing a snap despite injuries, just like Clevelanders rise early every day to punch the clock. Jose Ramirez was overlooked by scouts due to his size, just like Cleveland has been written off as a dying city. Of course, LeBron is the homebred prodigy who defied odds to lead our city to glory, but Isaiah Thomas has a chance to embrace the culture here.

he pathway to another championship will be one of determination and defying odds. I am confident this season will be one of self-vindication for I.T., which will result in him proudly holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy. When we ultimately meet the Golden State Warriors yet again in the Finals, it will be one of Rust Belt vs. Silicon Valley, Hourly Wage vs. Salary, hunger vs entitlement, David vs Goliath. Welcome home, Isaiah. Time to get to work.

P.S. We have plenty of skate parks for Isaiah Thomas’ son, Jaiden.

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Kanter keeps basketball first, but won’t back down — Enes Kanter has been as outspoken about his politics as he has been diligent about carving out his space in the NBA. But there’s a balance needed, and the Oklahoma City Thunder big man knows it. That’s why he’ll keep basketball as his first priority while staying true to what he believes off the court. As Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman reports, Kanter will still speak his mind:

The Thunder center was back in Oklahoma City on Sunday, running a free camp for kids ages 8 to 19 at the Sante Fe Family Life Center. It marked the end of a whirlwind summer that included the revocation of his passport by the government in his native Turkey.

That incident ignited Kanter’s political spark. He took advantage to speak out more than ever before against the Turkish government and president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and it’s led to something of a social-consciousness snowball.

“Whenever I have an interview, they don’t ask me basketball questions anymore,” Kanter said Sunday after the camp. “They ask me politics, they ask me (about) some problems in America — racism and sexism, whatever. But I’m ready for all these questions. I study hard.”

But Kanter is, he said, first and foremost concerned with his role as a basketball player.

He’s not going to stop speaking his mind, and he’s encouraging others with powerful voices to do the same on issues that matter to them. But the Thunder opens camp next week, and Kanter is ready to shift his focus to the court.

That process started soon after Kanter was held in Romania in May, his passport having been invalidated by the Turkish government. Kanter — who is not a U.S. citizen, but does have a green card that allows him re-entry in the country — was able to return to New York City, where he spent most of his summer.

“After I landed in New York, I’m like, ‘OK, I’m done. I’m done with all this stuff,’” Kanter said. “I don’t want to take that focus away, because we have a really important season coming up and whenever I step on the court, I don’t really want to think about all this craziness, whatever happened in the past.”

But Kanter — who said he’ll continue to speak out on issues that matter to him — wanted to make sure his budding activism didn’t interfere with his hoop career. So he threw himself into offseason preparation.

In June or July, Kanter said, he was up to 273 pounds, the result of eating his favorite Turkish dishes early in the offseason. He was carrying so much extra weight that, “I needed like a bra or something,” Kanter said.

A stricter diet and workout regimen — he added serious swimming and pool workouts for the first time in his career — helped Kanter drop to a solid 245, down about five pounds from last season’s playing weight.

It’s “probably” the best condition he’s been in to start a camp, Kanter said.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The No. 1 question in New Orleans isn’t about Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, it’s about Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo … Nets rookie Jarrett Allen ready to compete and engage in his community … ICYMI, it appears the Sacramento Kings are rolling with House Lannister whenever “Game of Thrones” returns … How will Nerlens Noel handle his situation this season in Dallas? … Mr. Milestone himself, LeBron James, has nothing but love for NFL ironman Joe Thomas reaching one of his own