A Sun again, Goran Dragic happy to come home
Goran Dragic is proof you can go home again.
"I am really happy to be back," Dragic told reporters at a press conference Thursday. "Phoenix is my home."
Dragic, who was drafted in 2008 by the Phoenix Suns, maintained a close relationship with head coach Alvin Gentry and opted to return to the team and coach that gave him his first chance in the NBA.
"Alvin [Gentry's] my guy. He was my first coach in NBA to give me an opportunity to play and I am really grateful for that and that's why it was not a hard decision to come back to Phoenix," Dragic said.
The unrestricted free agent point guard signed a four-year deal worth an estimated $34 million with the Phoenix Suns and is considered the heir apparent to Steve Nash, and the guy who will be tasked with leading the team into the future.
"When we thought about where our franchise was and where we were headed and really the beginning of a new era of Phoenix Suns basketball, we thought about who we wanted to be our pilot, or who we wanted to give the keys to going forward, and all roads led back to [Dragic]," Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said.
Babby isn't concerned with the inevitable Steve Nash comparisons as he said the organization is focused on creating a new dynamic in Phoenix.
"When we focused on [Dragic], it wasn't with the purpose of duplicating Steve Nash, that's not possible and that wasn't our aspiration," Babby said. "We wanted [Dragic] here for his own talents. He's going to carve a different path."
Dragic acknowledged he'll feel obvious stresses and pressures in playing a full season as a starter for the Suns next year, but he won't let the ghost of Steve Nash disrupt his transition.
"I don't want to be like Steve Nash," Dragic explained. "He's one of the greatest point guards in the league. I am a different player. I play different basketball than him. The only thing that I want to be like [Nash] is how he works hard, that he has winning mentality. Still I have to work hard to improve my game but I know that with our coaching staff that we've got, I can improve all my things and that I can run this team."
"Of course when I got traded, I was a little bit sad but then you realize that's part of the business and I think that was the best thing that happened to me because I could play more minutes and I demonstrated I could play in the NBA," Dragic said. "I don't have hard feelings of any of guys in this organization. That's why I came back."
Gentry also believes the trade to Houston allowed Dragic to blossom, and that evolution he experienced as a player made him more attractive to bring back into the fold.
"The thing for me that I think I noticed most is his confidence level is at its all-time high and in this league that becomes a really important thing," Gentry stated. "I think that he feels that he belongs now and I think that he feels he can line up and play against anyone in the league."
Gentry believes Dragic is now equipped with the tools necessary to lead the Suns and their young team to the next level.
"It's great having him back here," Gentry said. "I think he's going to be a great leader for our team. I think he's going to do a tremendous job of running our team. The thing that I like about him is the intensity and competitiveness that he plays with becomes very important with what we are trying to do here."
Dragic ultimately chose Phoenix over returning to Houston or signing with Toronto. He hinted he took less money to go back to where it all began and to have a second chance to prove himself in the Valley of the Sun.
"I think we have a really bright future, a young team," Dragic said. "I think we are going to be really good. I am going to play hard and thank you once again to Phoenix organization for bringing me back home."
Dragic averaged 11.7 points and 5.3 assists for the Rockets in 2011-12. For his career, Dragic has 8.0 points and 3.3 assists in 19 minutes per game.
Arizona Sports' Craig Grialou contributed to this report
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