The pitch to free-agent point guard Goran Dragic was simple, they rolled out the "Orange Carpet." At least that is the way Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby described the process as.
Dragic is ushering in a new era as are the Suns with the switch from No. 2 to the No. 1 for the upcoming season.
"I like to have a number on my jersey that is just one number," was his reasoning on the number change. "I choose No. 1 because it is a fresh start for me. It is a second start for me and just trying to switch something."
It is all about new beginnings for Dragic as he embarks on a second stint with the Suns, which is not unlike that of his former mentor. Once upon a time ago a future Suns icon spent his first few years as a back-up before being traded away to find his game on a team located in Texas. When Steve Nash went to the Dallas Mavericks he was able to stretch his legs and figure out what type of player he was to be.
That is exactly where Dragic is today. Back from his small stint with the Houston Rockets in a Euro League style loan the Suns basically put him on to let him develop as a young player. Those types of player loans happen all the time in Europe, but Babby rolled the dice on a trade that came back to prove positive all around for the team. Now Dragic is back home.
The journey back home in hindsight was avoidable, but in essence 100% necessary. Playing behind Nash helped in the aspect of learning from the best professional in basketball.
Coming home is a deeper theme than just Dragic having a house here and his cousin that lives here, the Suns are family. Every time Nash was mentioned and what he learned from him it always came down to "just being a professional." Sure Nash did a lot for the younger version of Dragic in terms of eating healthy and running the pick-and-roll, which will both be play a large role in determining the amount of success Dragic will have here a second time around.
"I have a great relationship with Alvin and his family," Dragic on his connection with the Suns. "I could say he (Gentry) was my second father here."
Coach Gentry gave Dragic a chance. Plain and simple. When Dragic was younger he saw something in the young guard and the bond they grew was not severed by a trade a year and a half ago. It was tough seeing him go as he let him go with very simple advise, "just go out there and prove you belong in this league."
More than just the chance to play it was the comfort that Gentry gave a 22-year old Slovenian kid that was looking to make it in America. Phoenix is very different than his native country that he would get lost out here and not feel comfortable, therefore not feel confident on and off the court.
Coach Gentry did everything he could to make him feel comfortable.
"He is as close to him (my sons) as any player I have ever coached in my life," explained Coach Gentry on his relationship with Dragic. "They are really close to Goran (his kids) and the only jersey my oldest has hanging in his room is Goran's from Houston. They are really close to him and there is a really special bond there."
That right there may have been the cherry on top of Dragic landing back in Phoenix. He had sizeable offers from Toronto and Charlotte, confirming with his agent the Bobcats were offering a bigger monetary advantage, but the Suns offered more of an emotional and basketball advantage for him. And Charlotte is, well it is Charlotte.
His time in Houston served him well. Today he is a more confident, polished, and more importantly ready player to take the reins from Nash to run the team. The full throttle, crash and burn style is going to have to be tempered to physically last as a starter, but he knows that from starting 35 games in Houston last year.
The "Orange Carpet" did the trick as Dragic walked across it back to where he started. He is not Steve Nash or really anything like him in basketball terms. What he is, though, is the potentially the next great point guard in the Suns historic franchise.
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