In 2008, then Phoenix Suns GM Steve Kerry targeted Goran Dragic in the draft as Steve Nash’s heir apparent. More than a decade later, Dragic’s career arc comes full circle.
After securing a buyout with the San Antonio Spurs — the team that initially drafted him in 2008 but traded his rights to the Suns — Dragic met with the Brooklyn Nets contingent led by GM Sean Marks and Nash. When Marks saw the bond between Dragic and Nash, he knew right there and then that they would land the Slovenian guard.
“I have to give full credit to Steve on this one,” said Marks referring to their Friday meeting with Dragic. “It was really intriguing to me to see the relationship that Goran and Steve have — the respect they have for one another. And really the respect Goran had for Steve many, many years ago. The fact that he was his vet when he was a rookie that’s a unique relationship there. Just to watch those two tell stories together, it was certainly refreshing for me to sit back and almost just envision the things to come.”
Nash took Dragic under his wings in Phoenix. He served as Nash’s backup for over 190 games. But it wasn’t until the Suns’ 2010 playoff run that Dragic broke through when he scored 23 fourth-quarter points in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals against; guess who? The Spurs. The Suns swept the Spurs, 4-0 but eventually fell short in the Western Conference Finals against the eventual champions Los Angeles Lakers.
With that unfinished business as the backdrop, the 35-year old Dragic hopes to win the elusive NBA title with Nash as his mentor anew.
“Steve has another ally on the court. We know what Goran can do. He’s tried and tested. He’s a fierce competitor. And in the meeting, it was very clear why he wants to be here, and that’s [competing for a] championship,” Marks said.
The Nets currently sit eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 31-28 record dropping from the top after losing Kevin Durant to injury and James Harden eventually asking out. But the Nets have been reinvigorated after the Harden trade posting a 2-1 record before the All-Star break with the help of new acquisitions Seth Curry and Andre Drummond, who were part of the Harden-Ben Simmons blockbuster trade.
Dragic will come in as a veteran leader and extension of Nash on the court. He is ramping up his activity to return to the court after only playing five games with the Toronto Raptors earlier in the season before he was shut down. But Marks expressed confidence that Dragic’s longstanding relationship and familiarity with Nash would seamlessly aid him in integrating himself with the team.
“Goran already has a little cheat sheet. Like he’s already been there. Just having a high IQ player out on the court alongside the guys we already have will certainly speed up that learning process, that learning curve for all our new guys,” Marks said.
When Durant and Simmons return and Kyrie Irving is eventually allowed to play at home, the Nets’ Big 3 will have a loaded supporting cast led by Dragic, who can compete at a high level. Dragic and Patty Mills can form a deadly backcourt duo in their second unit.
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