Booing the Bulls’ Goran Dragic wasted energy, considering what he has seen
The fans in Toronto gave it to Dragic on Sunday. They are free to boo him, of course, but they need to know how little it unnerves him.
Going into an arena in which the fans think you wronged them might cause a certain amount of anxiety for most NBA players.
Then again, Bulls guard Goran Dragic isn’t most NBA players.
So rather than battling with hurt emotions Sunday in Toronto, Dragic — who briefly played for the Raptors last season — let the hometown crowd know exactly where he stood with them. At one point, he put his finger to his lips to send the message they were better off staying silent.
‘‘Just having some fun,’’ Dragic said.
Because for Dragic, that was fun. He said it was a picnic compared to life in the Adriatic league.
‘‘That’s nothing, the boos,’’ Dragic said, referring to his days of growing up in European basketball. ‘‘I played in Greece. I played in Belgrade. They’re throwing coins, golf balls, lighting fires just because of where I’m from [Slovenia]. That’s a normal environment for us.
‘‘We were in Croatia, and we had a game against Zadar. The fans came down from the bleachers, and they came after us. We all had to run into a locker room and lock the door. Then they smashed all the windows on our bus, and we had to drive home six hours without showering, with no windows and glass all over.
‘‘The security loaded us on the bus out of the locker room, and we had to keep our heads down with towels over them because they were still throwing stuff. That was one of the craziest experiences I’ve been a part of.’’
In other words, Raptors fans have a long way to go to make Dragic flinch, let alone shake his psyche.
He proved that by shooting 6-for-10 from the field and scoring 16 points in the Bulls’ 113-104 loss. A night later against the Raptors at the United Center, he scored 10 points and was a plus-18 in the Bulls’ 111-97 victory.
His message to Raptors fans was to move on because he has.
In the summer after the 2020-21 season, Dragic was traded from the Heat to the Raptors as part of a deal for guard Kyle Lowry.
‘‘Toronto is not my preferred destination,’’ he said back then. ‘‘I have higher ambitions.’’
He immediately apologized for those comments and let it be known that he had nothing but respect for the city of Toronto. It was more about not wanting to move his family after spending six-plus seasons with the Heat.
But that didn’t matter in the social-media universe. Dragic quickly was turned into a villain in Toronto, despite having a reputation as one of the more down-to-earth teammates in the league.
He ended up playing five games for the Raptors before it was reported that he left for a personal leave. On Monday, however, Dragic said that wasn’t the case.
‘‘If I’m honest, [the Raptors] made that decision,’’ Dragic said. ‘‘They told me to go home, so it wasn’t on me. OK, I did say something at the beginning of the season. [But] I did apologize, and that was it. I moved on. They told me they wanted to go young, so I respect that.
‘‘The fans can think whatever, and I know what’s true and what’s not. I understand it’s part of the business, so sometimes it’s not the right fit. You try and find the right one and move on. I have.’’
The Bulls and Raptors play once more this season. The game will be in late February in Toronto.
The boos will be loud again, but that’s fine. Dragic has dealt with much worse.