sports 4 days ago

Australia and Ben Simmons not happy with the Goran Dragic All-Star selection

Sun Sentinel — By Ira Winderman Sun Sentinel

Feb. 13-- TORONTO-Goran Dragic won't only be carrying the weight of Slovenia as his county's first NBA All-Star this weekend in Los Angeles, he'll also be bearing the weight of Australia.

When the Miami Heat point guard was selected as an All-Star replacement ahead of Philadelphia 76ers rookie guard Ben Simmons, it did not exactly sit well with Tim Watts, a member of Australia's House of Representatives.

In Australia's parliament, Watts rose to declare:

"Frankly, no one with two brain cells to rub together would want Goran Dragic on their team over Ben."

Actually, it was Eastern Conference coaches who voted Dragic in ahead of the emerging guard who was born in Melbourne as the injury replacement for sidelined Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love.

Watts wasn't done there.

"It makes me think there is some kind of anti-Australian conspiracy going on at the league head office at the moment," Watts said, with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver actually deferring to Eastern Conference coaches in selecting Love's replacement. "If you thought that Australia was angry about The Simpsons versus Australia TV episode, you ain't seen nothing yet, Yanks."

Dragic viewed the video for the first time after Tuesday morning's shootaround at Air Canada Centre, in advance of the Heat's game against the Toronto Raptors?

"He said that in parliament?" Dragic asked in an incredulous tone.

"First of all," he continued, "he should think about his people and do his job in parliament, not get involved in sports.

"I don't know what to say on that. This is not something that is decided by him."

Dragic and Simmons have already met since the replacement for Love was named. When they meet again Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center it will be after Simmons also was bypassed as an injury replacement for Kristaps Porzingis, with that nod going to Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker.

"I don't really know what an all-star is anymore," Simmons told Philadelphia media. "I mean, if it was about win-lose, you picked Dragic, obviously, and you pick Kemba, whose team is ... under us. It is what it is, but my stats don't lie."

Simmons will be participating in Friday's Rising Stars Challenge at Staples Center along with 76ers teammates Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, with Heat rookie center Bam Adebayo bypassed for that event.

As for Watts, he clarified his greater point on a Facebook post:

"I expressed my outrage at Aussie Superstar Ben Simmons' omission from this year's NBA All-Star game in Parliament today.

"But I also had a serious message about today's golden generation of Australians playing in the NBA. Of the nine flying the flag in the League there is an indigenous Australian man, four children of immigrants and two refugees.

"A perfect reflection of modern Australia-an immigrant nation and the most successful multicultural nation on earth."

There actually is some history between Dragic and Australia. At the 2014 World Cup, Dragic addressed Australia intentionally losing to Angola to avoid the United States in the quarterfinals, with Slovenia instead getting that seed and falling to the Americans.

On his Twitter account, Dragic posted, "Basketball is a beautiful sport, there is no room for fixing the game like today Australia vs Angola!! @FIBA should do something about it." Australia eventually was cleared by FIBA, basketball's internationally ruling body, of any wrongdoing.

"Maybe they still remember that," Dragic said Tuesday.


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