An ode to Goran Dragic’s time in Phoenix
Goran Dragic’s first All-Star appearance probably went unheralded to people outside of Miami or Slovenia. I have no ties to either place, but I celebrated just as much. At the beginning of his second season, I made a bet with my buddy that Dragic would make an All-Star team at some point in his career. The loser would have to shave their head (which are solid stakes considering we both have oddly shaped heads). It’s been nearly a decade, and I finally get to collect. So, thank you, Goran Dragic, for making the All-Star team. And an unceremonious thanks to the Curse of LeBron. (Wishing speedy recoveries to Wall, Boogie, Porzingis, and Love…did I miss anyone?)
The road to Dragic’s first All-Star game hasn’t been a smooth one. The Suns had acquired him in a draft day trade with the San Antonio Spurs. To many Suns fans, the trade just seemed like another chapter in the Spurs dominance over the Suns that spanned the better part of the 2000s. At first, it seemed they were right. His rookie year was awful. So awful, in fact, that he earned affectionate monikers such as “Goran Tragic” and “the worst player in the NBA.”
Dragic’s second year in the NBA was much more promising. He developed into a solid backup for Steve Nash while also providing hope for the post-Nash Suns that were on the horizon. Dragic cemented his place into the heart of Suns fans during the 2010 playoffs. He dropped 23 points on the Spurs IN THE 4TH QUARTER to help put the Suns up 3-0 in the series en route to a series sweep. The former second round pick showed off a true lefty jumper and a craftiness in his lane that even made Manu Ginobili blush. That was the night that “Tragic” became “The Dragon”.
The next couple years of Dragic’s career were marred by uncertainty. He struggled to make another leap during his 3rd year which prompted the Suns to trade him at the deadline along with a 1st round pick for a Chris Rock bobblehead (I mean, Aaron Brooks). If this deadline deal involving Dragic seems bad, just wait for the sequel. Dragic continued to steadily improve in Houston behind Kyle Lowry before becoming a free agent in 2012.
After the Suns Trojan-horsed Steve Nash’s bad back into the Staples Center, they were looking for a new starting point guard. Who better than the player he mentored? Dragic’s career path even mirrored Nash’s: drafted by the Suns, traded to a Texas team, then he re-signed with the Suns just as he was hitting his prime. His first year back was a forgettable one, mostly because Suns fans actively try and forget that Michael Beasley and Kendall Marshall were ever on the team. Dragic’s next year was his pièce de résistance, in which he averaged 20 points and nearly 6 assists on 50% FG and 40% 3PT en route to 3rd Team All-NBA and the Most Improved Player award. Despite this, he didn’t make the All-Star team in a stacked West. Although I couldn’t cash in on my bet due to a technicality, I knew I had won the spirit of it.
Despite Dragic’s ascension to a top-25 player, it never seemed to be good enough for the Suns. Dragic was like the faithful wife, but Suns GM Ryan McDonough was always looking for a side piece. First, it was Eric Bledsoe, the younger, more attractive babysitter hired just to “help out”. Then, when Dragic responded by getting in the best shape of his life and learning how to brew his favorite beer, McDonough strayed again with Isaiah Thomas, the workplace fling that seemed fun at first but was never going to go anywhere. I don’t blame Dragic for requesting a trade that year. He deserved to go somewhere he was appreciated, and I’m glad he found that in Miami.
As an apologetic Suns fan I just wanted to say that I appreciated you, Gogi. And thank you. For the greatest Suns playoff moment in recent history. For the last relevant Suns season. But mostly, for not subjecting the world to my lumpy, lopsided head.