DALLAS - We have called him "The Raptors Refugee,'' and the weird twist in former Heat guard Goran Dragic's NBA career keeps twisting. He is in Toronto, where he was traded to from Miami in the offseason as part of the Kyle Lowry deal.
But he's not "in Toronto'' at all.
Dragic started for the Raptors in their NBA opener. And for the most part, since then, it's been about a bizarre string of DNP-CDs.
The team announced Sunday that the 35-year-old point guard has departed the club to “manage a personal issue.” While there could be a serious matter in addition to his well-known status with the Raptors ...
Smart speculation is that this is about Dragic seeking an escape from Toronto,
And maybe landing in Dallas.
It is bizarre, until Toronto takes him in mothballs with plans to either move him ... or let him move.
The "personal leave,'' of course, ramps up speculation that Dragic will land with the Dallas Mavericks, who have long coveted him in part because of his big-brother relationship with fellow Slovenian star Luka Doncic.
But what if Dallas ends up a bridesmaid once again, in terms of talent acquisition, because of Miami's level of contention and maybe Dragic's comfort level in such a return?
The problem for Dallas is that the Raptors have been unwilling to give Dragic a buyout. If would do so, he'd almost surely become a Mav, as the rules block him from boomeranging back to Miami without waiting a full season.
Rather, it seems, the Raptors would like to end up trading Dragic - naturally, for them, assets are better than buyouts.
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Which means Dallas might have to trade for him.
Which means Miami and Dallas could enter a mini-bidding war.
How much does Dallas want Dragic to help Luka and Kristaps Porzingis? Enough to "win the bidding''?
As Dragic said recently, “I know him as a kid, I know him when he was five years old, I know his dad. His dad was my mentor. I really connected with Luka and his family. He’s just a pure, natural talent that you don’t see so often.”
This is also a situation you don't see so often: A twisted potential bidding war for a Raptor who doesn't even play ... with Miami (needing a backup to Lowry) and Dallas (needing all the ball-handlers it can get, in addition to the Luka-friendly factor) each trying to elbow the other out of the way. ... and of course, a Mavs history in the Mark Cuban era of coming oh-so-close on big acquisitions ...
But not quite close enough.
Now, though, another advancement in Dragic's escape from Toronto - because in spirit and now in body, he seems done there.
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