LA JOLLA, Calif. -- It's taken four years and a brief detour through Houston, but the player the Suns drafted in 2008 with the intentions of one day becoming the starting point guard is finally getting that chance.
"It's not [Nash] anymore, it's me now," Goran Dragic said.
Entering his fifth season in the NBA, Dragic is being asked to fill the void left by a player who in his last eight years in Phoenix was a two-time MVP and six-time All-Star.
"It's not going to be easy to fill those big shoes that [Nash] left," he said.
The good news is the Suns aren't asking him to do that.
The Suns don't want Dragic to be Nash. The Suns want Dragic to be the player who last season averaged career highs in scoring (11.7), assists (5.3), rebounds (2.5), steals (1.3) and minutes (26.5) while playing in all 66 games.
When Kyle Lowry got hurt, Dragic flourished. As a starter in the season's final 26 games, he averaged 18.2 points, 8.3 assists and 1.85 steals while leading the Rockets to a 13-13 finish.
"He's a lot more confident," head coach Alvin Gentry said. "I think he feels like he truly belongs. I feel like he thinks that he can be an elite guard in the league. That confidence really helps I think."
Dragic said the increased playing time allowed him to become more vocal on the court. That aspect of his game was missing at times during his first go-round with the Suns when he was being mentored by Nash.
The two remain good friends and spoke just last week.
"We didn't talk about how I have to run the team, about our futures," Dragic said. "We were catching up for old times."
Dragic is well aware that taking Nash's spot on the court as well as his locker in the team's locker room comes with added pressure.
"I'm not worried," he said. "It's going to be a lot of pressure but when it's pressure, diamonds are made."