Sometimes being nice and being a great teammate can get in the way of a player blossoming into the impact play-maker that he can be. Though there have been some very good moments so far early on in the season, Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic has to develop a bit of a mean streak on the court.
It was most evident midway through the third quarter last night against Utah when Marcin Gortat grabbed a rebound looked past Goran Dragic (literally, he was right next to him) and passed to Michael Beasley who set the offense.
The play resulted in a trip to the free-throw line for Beasley where he went a modest one for two, but the end result was a verbal mugging from Head Coach Alvin Gentry to his point guard. No matter where you saw that from Gentry's animation was very clear and his point was simple.
"I basically told him to get the (bleeping) ball," Gentry told me after the game.
That sequence on the court was very significant, seemingly turning on the light for the fourth year point guard. The very next play down he jettisoned past the defense for a score at the rim. This is his team if he wants it, but he needs to want it and even more crucial -- his teammates need to know that.
As the season has progressed the Phoenix Suns have used Beasley as a secondary ball-handler at times to get the ball up-court and into the offense quicker. It has been a mixed bag of results with Beasley averaging a career high 2.4 assists per game, but that has also undermined the development of Dragic as this teams leader going forward.
Beasley is a part of this team, but Dragic has the potential and opportunity to be the face of this team.
"I have to talk with (Marcin) Gortat about that," said Dragic with a smile after the game. "He catches the ball and I am yelling, "Gortat, Gortat," and he passes the ball to Beasley. In practice if Shannon (Brown) or Jared (Dudley) have the ball I have to run to the corner and spread the floor."
Is that what Gentry is looking for? "No," says Dragic. "So we have to work on that."
This season the Suns have situationally leaned on the hot hand whether it was Shannon Brown, Beasley, Jared Dudley, or Sebastian Telfair on the perimeter. What they need is a defined leader. Not a hero shot taker, but an offensive coordinator on the court that commands the respect of his teammates.
Dragic is not a Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, or even a Kyrie Irving type point guard that can carry a team on his back. But he is this teams version of that and it is fundamentally important that the rest of the team understands than. When he goes for 20+ points this season the team is 2-1 primarily because they have an identity in those games to lean on and Dragic has been shooting the ball in an efficient manner.
Even looking back at last season when Dragic became the starter in Houston he scored 20+ points in 12 games and the team went 5-7 overall. It was under different circumstances, but he can be that type of scorer.
No question Coach Gentry wants the ball in his young point guards hands. He trusts him to make the right play and the smart play for himself and for others. It is all a part of the learning process, but Goran, for the sake of Gentry's sanity go get the bleeping ball!