Our little guy is growing up!  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Remember Dragic's first year, when he'd stop his progress, turn his back and crouch to protect the dribble when an opposing player got within a couple feet of him? And how his biggest problem was an inability to effectively run an offense?

I do. I remember folks wondering regularly why Kerr spent millions to get this kid from Slovenia.

It was Dragic's second season where he flourished as a change-of-pace backup, when our expectations were no higher than 8 points and 3 assists in 15 minutes against the other team's bench. Those occasional 10+ point games were a revelation. When he started 1 game that second year - a 16 and 10 performance against the rising Thunder - our eyes began to open to the possibilities of his future. Then that 28-point game against San Antonio sealed it. Dragic was a rising star!

Unfortunately, 2010-2011 happened. Dragic regressed. His shot failed him, and his confidence was close behind. The Suns were struggling for a playoff spot and the Suns' second unit was terrible. Horrible. And this was still when Frye and Dudley played in that second unit. So he was sent away for a chance at lightning in a bottle that never came. But don't fool yourself - Dragic played himself into that trade.

Some of us - me included - thought Dragic would never progress into a viable starting PG. His lack of confidence and streaky shot, and his inability to drive to his right, would forever limit him to "good backup" or "okay starter on a bad team".

But then something happened to Dragic. Maybe it was the shock of the trade - like a cutting of the apron strings - that forced Dragic to grow up and become his own man.

Last night, Goran Dragic showed the game that we all hoped he had. All while staying calm and collected. But the best part was that, between plays (and even once during a play), he kept his sense of humor and friendships with Suns players alive.

I counted several great exchanges between Dragic and a Suns player last night, in between him leading the second unit to 57 big points, including 11 of his own points plus 11 assists, 4 rebounds and a couple steals. Each one of those little exchanges with our guys made me smile.

  1. He and Nash shared a laugh and a few words when they first met up on the court during a timeout.
  2. A moment later, as Dragic was calling out a play to his teammates, Nash turned and mimicked the two-hand gesture. Dragic chuckled. Then drove to his left like a bat out of hell and dished a pretty pass.
  3. On the other end of the court, Nash tripped and fell face first to the floor. The ball was still live, as Nash was able to punch it to Gortat. As the ball swung to the corner, Dragic help Nash back to his feet. All while the ball was still in play.
  4. Just before the third quarter started, Robin Lopez playfully tried to block Dragic as he practiced his 3s. Dragic had missed 4 straight practice shots. Then Lopez defended his friend, crouching down into a defensive stance and half-heartedly rising to block the shot attempt. Dragic drained it and walked away with a big smile on his face.
  5. Later in the game, Grant Hill drew one of his patented charges on Dragic. They both tumbled to the floor, Dragic on top of Hill. I swear that, once the tumbling stopped, Dragic stayed down a second or two longer and maybe even patted Hill on the shoulder as they exchanged words. Then Dragic got to his feet and helped Hill back up.
Great kid. He's becoming a nice, mature young man in Houston.

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PHOENIX — Goran Dragic made a name for himself feasting on opposing bench units two years ago in US Airways Center. The Dragon returned to the scene of the crime Thursday and pulled the trick...

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Goran Dragic torched his former teammates with 11 points and 11 assists tonight.

The Phoenix Suns showed improvement tonight, playing an entertaining, back and forth game with the Houston Rockets, but the Rockets bench proved to be too much and the Suns fell short in the end, 96-89. Goran Dragic haunted his former team with 11 points and 11 assists, and provided a toughness and poise not always seen in his time in Phoenix, committing only 2 turnovers in 29 minutes of action.

All five of the Rockets bench players scored in double figures and all held a double digit + in +/- as they totaled a whopping 57 points in comparison to the 13 scored by the Suns bench. Michael Redd scored 11 of those Suns bench points.

Channing Frye led the Suns with 21 points and 10 rebounds, as he hit 4 of his 9 3-point attempts and looked aggressive from the start, and newly minted 2012 all-star Steve Nash scored 14 points to go with his 13 assists. Nash didn't miss a shot, going 7-7 from the field.

Improvement? Yes. But the Suns continue to be dogged by the same problems of inconsistent rebounding, spotty bench play and lack of late game offensive execution. All reared their ugly heads tonight.

Read on for more.....

The game started out in fine form for the Suns. Channing Frye and Grant Hill had success aggressively looking to score and tallied 15 of the Suns first 17 points, the highlight being a thunderous slam dunk by Frye that left most everyone asking, "who is that bad man in Channing Frye's jersey tonight?" Frye's performance was a night and day difference from his last game against the Rockets.

However, the Rockets controlled the boards early on, held a 5-1 offensive rebounding edge, and the Suns lead after 1 was only 29-26 before yet another disastrous second quarter.

How bad was the second quarter for the Suns? The Rockets bench dismantled the Suns bench 28-3 in the quarter. It was no contest. With Sebastian Telfair running the offense, there was no rhythm. All shots were created one-on-one, players looked lost. It was hard to discern what they were even attempting to accomplish on the offensive end. It was that bad.

Meanwhile, the Rockets hummed along just fine, with Patrick Patterson hitting baseline mid-range jumpers, Chase Budinger and Courtney Lee knocking down 3s, Jordan Hill cleaning the boards, all managed efficiently by backup PG Goran Dragic. To see Dragic look so composed and in control while Telfair struggled was painful for Suns fans to watch. Point guard play was hardly the only difference between these two teams' benches but it was an obviously noticeable one.

Nash and the starters returned with around 5 minutes to go in the half, restored some order, and the Rockets lead was only 10 going into halftime, 54-44. Then the second half started with a 16-3 run by the Suns, capped by a Jared Dudley 3-pointer to give them a 60-57 lead. Frye hit a 3, Redd hit a 3, Dudley hit another 3. After six 3s in the quarter by the Suns helped them to a 76-74 lead, it was time for.....gulp.... the bench to come back in.

Gentry didn't replace all five this time, and left Marcin Gortat and Channing Frye in the game for nearly the entire second half. Markieff Morris and Robin Lopez did not return. The fourth quarter featured five lead changes before the Rockets seized control for good with 5:47 remaining on a Budinger 3-pointer.

The Suns pulled as close as 92-89, but a poor Gortat pass was stolen by Kyle Lowry for an easy layup, and Gortat committed an offensive foul on the Suns next possession. Between ineffective offensive performance and stifling Rockets defense, the Suns weren't able to score for the final 2:18 of the game.

And here's that Goran kid...


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Let's make it four!



More energy, better rebounding, hit open shots. We got this.

Notes From Gentry's Office:

  • Glad Steve Nash got named to the All-Star team. He deserved it, not even close. Would have liked to have him get the eight days rest instead but he's an All-Star
  • It will be a good experience for Markieff Morris. Playing with guys that talented will show him how much more work he has to do on his game.
  • Houston is playing as well as anyone right now. They are deep with Patrick Patterson and Goran coming off the bench.
  • The Rockets seem to have really good chemistry, they don't care who scores and they are very versatile with who they can play at what position.
  • Last week the Rockets manhandled the Suns and were much more physical. Suns need to do everything better tonight.
  • Was impressed with Suns bench in Milwaukee. Got good looks, executed well and never lost confidence even when down four.
  • Gentry said he did have a conversation with Nash this year about needing him to score more.
  • Gentry got his 300th win in Milwaukee...he wasn't aware and didn't think he'd coached long enough for that.


Steve Nash has done his level best to keep the Suns afloat all season long, through offensive droughts and ever-shifting rotations. On Thursday evening, the NBA coaches rewarded him for his efforts...

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