The Slovenian rivalry between Goran Dragic and Sasha Vujacic


PHOENIX — When fellow countrymen Goran Dragic and Sasha Vujacic went chest to chest and received double technicals with 9:43 left in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s game, it was clear that there was some bad blood between the two.

The technical was the first of Dragic’s career and the way he reacted to Vujacic intentionally bumping into him from behind showed exactly how he felt about the Laker guard. The two exchanged choice words, in Slovene of course, which was instigated by Vujacic, according to Dragic.

Goran said that it’s nothing personal between the two, but their altercation certainly indicated otherwise. And when he was asked whether or not they were friends, he responded, “No. We didn’t go for coffee and this kind of stuff.”

Dragic explained that the two practiced together with the Slovenian national team for about 15 days last year before The Machine was cut. During that time the guards developed quite the rivalry, which carried into the regular season and obviously Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.

“We are coming from the same country and he wants to demonstrate that he’s better than me and (I want to show that) I’m better than him, so that’s just the rivalry,” Dragic said. “I know that he wants to guard me and I want to play against him. It’s just a huge rivalry between me and Sasha, and that’s all.”

Goran’s younger brother Zoran, who is a 20-year-old swingman playing for Geoplin Slovan Ljubljana in Slovenia, was in attendance at Friday’s practice and was able to shed some light on the rivalry.

“It was like a little bit tense I think. They’re not good friends,” Zoran said. “They don’t like each other and this happen all the time.”

While Goran expressed his lack of friendship with Vujacic, the Lakers guard wouldn’t even acknowledge Dragic, as he called him “the kid on the other team” in a post-game interview. Vujacic also said that he’d never heard of Dragic when he was back home.

Whether Vujacic will admit it or not, these two don’t like each other. There is a clear rivalry there and Phil Jackson wouldn’t have inserted Vujacic into the lineup for the first time all series if he didn’t know that.

The Machine did a good job getting under the skin of Dragic with his ball pressure early in the game, but Goran said he is looking forward to the challenge Saturday night in Game 6.