In which I share even more thoughts on how the Phoenix Suns handled the Goran Dragic situation.
Ed. note: The opinion expressed herein does not necessarily reflect that of the entire BSotS staff, but Bright Side supports and honors all sides to a situation.
The Phoenix Suns, as Dave King so accurately pointed out here and here, have hit the reset button after trading their best player as part of a three-for-one point guard shuffle. Most of what needs to be said about this entire mess has already been said. However, I am going to say a few more things that might have slipped through the cracks or maybe just because that's what I do on this site when the team I grew up watching does things that make me angry like trade Shawn Marion for an elderly Shaquille O'Neal, or let Steve Kerr and his staff walk, or undervalue and trade away Goran Dragic twice.
All teams are going to make mistakes with players. Signing Isaiah Thomas was obviously a mistake but one that you can understand and live with. Sometimes things just don't work out and you accept that and move on. But how this situation with Goran Dragic was handled is much more troubling for what it says about the leadership in the organization and what that means moving forward.
1) Calling Goran Dragic selfish is simply silly. Anyone who has watched Goran play basketball and understands how he approaches the game knows that he is anything but a selfish player. We are talking about a guy who grew up idolizing Steve Nash and not Kobe Bryant. This is a guard who needed to be pushed into taking advantage of his abilities to become more of a scorer and not his instinctual "true point". Dragic is programmed to be a team-first player. The fact that the Suns GM either doesn't see that or feels the need to publicly say otherwise is not an encouraging sign for the team.
Does Dragic need the ball in his hands to be successful? Of course. He's a point guard who is at his best when he can make things happen. Remember, Steve Nash was called a "hummingbird trapped inside a sandwich bag" by Grant Hill when he was forced to dump the ball into an aged Shaq and then stand around and wait. Dragic is not Nash but he proved he could be historically good when given the trust and confidence of his team.
What message are you sending to the rest of the league's top players when you publicly say something like this?
2) The Suns went too far by asking Dragic to "sacrifice for the team" by sharing his job with not one but two other guys. There's sacrifice and then there's suicide. Don't forget that this is a guy who took a discount to come back to the Suns after the team's previous GM thought so little of his abilities that they spent a first round pick for the privilege of trading him for Aaron Brooks. He comes back at the urging of Robert Sarver only to see his abilities once again undervalued by the front office in a contract year.
How many millions of dollars off his next contract was Goran supposed to sacrifice for the Suns? How much money would you have given up for a front office with a minimal track record of success led by an owner and team president who already bailed on you once before?
Goran got himself traded to a winning organization that wants him, is going to pay him, and will give him his first chance in the NBA to play with championship caliber players as the starting point guard. Maybe it could have been handled differently, I don't know. But I don't blame Goran one bit for taking care of himself when the team was treating him this way.
It does not give me warm and fuzzy feelings about Ryan McDonough if he's not able to see things from the perspective of his players. Bosses who only want what's "best for the team" are being selfish in their own way. GMs are judged on team success and players get paid on individual results. It's a delicate balance but one that it is vital for Mr. McDonough to learn to navigate.
3) I don't know what specifically the Suns told Dragic that he thinks wasn't true. But I know if one of my most valuable employees, someone whose character I trust, felt the need to publicly call me a liar I might be pissed but I'd also recognize that I screwed up big time. The onus was on the Suns to keep Goran Dragic happy going into his free agency and they failed to do that. Period. They should be glad Goran forced his way out when he did and they were able to get some picks back instead of seeing him walk for nothing this summer.
By taking control of the situation Goran was able to both increase the likelihood that he'll get a five-year max deal and got to the best team that otherwise wouldn't have had the cap space to sign him in July. The Suns got back the picks they were supposedly looking for when they reportedly shopped him before this all blew up. It was the actions of Dragic and his agent that turned this into a win-win and the team shouldn't have let that happen.
4) You can argue, and I might even agree, that in the long run the Suns roster is in a better place. They will have more cap space to play with, they have a younger core, even more picks, and Brandon Knight might just turn out to be even better than Goran in a few years. I hope it works out that way but let's be clear -- the Suns took a step back in the meantime. Instead of building around Dragic, Bledsoe, Len, Frye and Morris with a backup point guard developing on the bench and a very valuable draft pick in the bag they are now much younger and put themselves in a Western Conference rebuilding cohort with the Jazz, Kings, Pelicans and Timberwolves.
5) Sadly, the Suns hurt themselves with their reaction to Dragic's statements. They had other options besides allowing their emotions to take control and they choose not to take them. One hope future emotional screeds will be left to the bloggers and not front office executives. It might have been painful, but simply expressing disappointment and surprise at Goran's remarks and wishing him the best would have been a better and less bitter road to travel.