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Phoenix Suns’ Goran Dragic: Skills Challenge a great opportunity

PHOENIX — While his first All-Star selection may have eluded him, Goran Dragic will at least have his first All-Star experience.

He’s one of eight participants the league asked to compete in the Skills Challenge, one of the many events during All-Star Saturday Night.

“They invited me, so I said, ‘Yeah, I want to try.’ It’s something for…for my soul; try to see how those things go over there (in New Orleans, site of the 2014 NBA All-Star Game),” Dragic said after practice Friday.

While he remains disappointed over not being selected to play in the game, Dragic said he will attend the Sunday, Feb. 16 matchup to cap off what is sure to be whirlwind weekend.

“It’s going to be something new, but I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

Dragic will become the third Suns player to compete in the Skills Challenge, joining Stephon Marbury and Steve Nash, a two-time winner of the event (2005 and 2010).

This year, the Skills Challenge is introducing a new format that features four teams of two players each competing in a two-round timed relay-style course consisting of dribbling, passing and shooting stations.

Dragic will team with Reggie Jackson of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I played against him,” Dragic said. “I don’t know him personally, but I know he’s a good player. I think we’re going to do fine.”

Dragic, averaging 20.1 points and 6.0 assists, was certainly deserving of All-Star consideration. He and Miami’s LeBron James are the only two players this season to average at least 20 points and six assists while shooting over 50 percent. The last Suns player to accomplish that over the course of a season was Kevin Johnson in 1990-91.

“I’d rather have him just go for the All-Star Game, but it’ll be fun for him,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “It’s a good experience, the first time.”

Dragic may still get that first All-Star Game invite as an injury replacement; though it won’t be for Kobe Bryant (knee). That spot on the West squad went to New Orleans forward Anthony Davis, who on Friday was named to his first All-Star team by new commissioner Adam Silver.

Said Dragic, “I could have five days off and get my batteries re-charged, but (the Skills Challenge) is a great opportunity for me to experience that.”