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Phoenix Suns

Updated Nov 14, 2012 - 3:50 pm

Alvin Gentry: 'Dragic came back a man'

Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry instructs Goran Dragic (1), of Slovenia, in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Following in the steps of a future Hall of Famer is never easy, especially when that same living legend leaves for a division rival.

This is the role that was placed upon Phoenix Suns starting point guard Goran Dragic.

After losing star playmaker Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers over the summer, the Suns entered the 2012 offseason with no definite starting point guard for the first time since 2003. The Suns turned to Dragic, an unrestricted free agent who was coming off a career year with the Houston Rockets. Dragic had previously spent his first three NBA seasons in Phoenix.

Dragic was traded to the the Rockets in 2011 while averaging only 7.4 points and 3.1 assists with the Suns. But those numbers, along with his minutes and responsibilities, increased after taking over the starting job in Houston.

"He's a different player than when he left. He went away as a pretty good boy but he came back a man. That's the only way I can say it." Phoenix Suns head coach Alvin Gentry told Arizona Sports 620's Burns and Gambo.

In his first eight games as the Suns starting point guard, Dragic has averaged career highs in minutes, points and assists and according to Gentry, has more than lived up to the role of replacing Nash.

"Goran has surpassed all of us, as to what we thought," said Gentry. "We thought he would be a very good player for us but he's playing at a very high level."

Gentry went on to credit Rockets head coach Kevin McHale for turning Dragic into the player he is today.

"His leadership is much better and his confidence is at an all time high," said Gentry. "He feels like he belongs and he feels he can play with anybody in this league. I think attitude is probably three-fourths of the battle and the other is that he's just improved his game. He did a good job and Kevin McHale did a good job with instilling confidence in him and he truly believes in himself."

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