Goran Dragic will be one of four guards in the Western Conference to participate in the Skills Challenge during this year's All-Star weekend.

The NBA just announced all the fields for its various All-Star weekend events, and Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic will represent the Suns in New Orleans...but not in the All-Star game (as of now).

Dragic will participate in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge on Saturday, February 15th:

Congrats to @Goran_Dragic who will represent the West in the #TacoBellSkills Challenge. http://t.co/rVA1AOieaY pic.twitter.com/OSpmBzJBQc

— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) February 7, 2014

Check out the rest of the field in this year's Skills Challenge:

NBA All-Stars @Dame_Lillard & @DeMar_DeRozan headline 2014 #TacoBellSkills at @NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/LTTUuYyL46

— NBA (@NBA) February 7, 2014

Here's some more info on this year's new format from a press release from the Suns:

The Taco Bell Skills Challenge is introducing a new format that features four teams of two players each competing in a two-round timed relay-style course consisting of dribbling, passing and shooting stations.

Dragic will team with Reggie Jackson of the Oklahoma City Thunder on one of the Western Conference's teams. Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers and Trey Burke of the Utah Jazz comprise the West's other team. The Eastern Conference will be represented by DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks on one team, and Michael Carter-Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers and Victor Oladipo of the Orlando Magic on the other.

Perhaps this is some sort of consolation prize from the league. Or maybe it's a sign that the NBA is leaning towards making Dragic an All-Star by giving the last spot on the West team (thanks to Kobe Bryant's injury) to the Suns' leader. Dragic has proven to be deserving of the recognition, but the Western Conference All-Star team is simply stacked. Dragic is likely battling Anthony Davis for that final spot.

We'll see if Goran gets to participate in Sunday's festivities as well during All-Star weekend, but for now, it looks like he'll likely be attempting to fill the shoes of former Suns guard and two-time Skills Challenge winner Steve Nash.

Congrats Gogi! It's still the Year of the Dragon.


No other Suns player will be representing Phoenix during All-Star weekend. Gerald Green may have been in the dunk competition, but his lack of interest has been expressed since the beginning of the season. He also deserved some consideration for the Three-Point Shootout.

Alex Len might have made the Rising Stars game (especially given his weak rookie class) had he played more in the first half of the season. Miles Plumlee was snubbed from the same game, but perhaps deserved to make it over Toronto's Jonas Valanciunas. Speaking of whom, here's a clip of Charles Barkley attempting to pronounce his name just a little while ago on TNT's Inside the NBA:

With LeBron James coming to town in a few days, we use this week’s Throwback Thursday to take a look at one of the more spectacular blocks that you can witness. Date: March 12, 2009 Place: U.S....

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The Cleveland Cavaliers found themselves in a giant mess so they fired their GM and replaced him with someone who "grew up" with the Phoenix Suns.

Make no mistake, today's announcement from Cleveland that David Griffin will replace Chris Grant as the GM of the Cavs on an interim basis doesn't change the fact that Griff is a Phoenix Sun. The man is a Phoenix native who graduated from Arizona State. He started with the Suns in 1993 as an intern in the media relations department and moved his way up the ranks to become the Vice President of Basketball Operations in 2007. He was Steve Kerr's number two and was a big part of that great 2009-2010 team.

Griffin left Phoenix when Kerr did after that season and ended up with as assistant GM with the Cavs and now he'll get his chance at the wheel.

Of course, it's not an enviable task given the shape that team is in. In Mike Brown he inherits a coach who's biggest achievements appeared to be giving the ball to LeBron James and staying out of the way. The roster is filled with young players who, except for Kyrie Irving, were probably drafted too high and he's got an owner in Dan Gilbert who isn't shy about throwing is weight around.

Still, Dave is a great basketball mind who like the Suns current GM, mixes analytics and the "eye test".  In years past I had great conversations with Griff about his process for scouting talent and recall vividly his passion for evaluating character and putting the right guys together in the locker room.

...David Griffin, told me last year after returning from the MIT Sloan Sports Geek-fest Conference that the Suns not only use advanced stats, but are a leader in the NBA in using advanced methods of psychological evaluation.

See, you can walk and chew gum at the same time. Or in this case, count things and understand people, too.

It's no accident that the Suns have good chemistry. They strive for it. They think about it. They understand and discuss players' personalities and pass on guys who are talented if they don't fit with the right mentality.

I have no idea who much influence Griffin had over the Cavs recent draft decisions but instinctively wouldn't think that a Dion Waiters would be his type of guy. I guess we'll see what happens next with the Cavs who on paper have the talent to make the playoffs in the weak East but are currently sitting in the 12th seed with a 16-33 record.

Will he have the freedom to fire a coach on big contract and move some of those players to fix what certainly seems like a dysfunctional roster?  For his sake, I hope so.

Anyway, best of luck to a true son of Phoenix.

The NBA world this time of year is a lot different than that of the fantasy worlds that can be created in NBA2K with a controller and no pressure.

It is pretty infrequent when a reactionary move benefits anyone long-term or, at times, even in the moment. That is one of the fears of every team, player, coach, and fan alike in February and June when transactions are at their apex, giving every NBA General Manager ammunition to crush a franchise. Or rise above his peers...

Welcome to Trade Season.

General Managers are famously infamous for mortgaging a team's future for the hope that their idea is the right idea.

Right now the Phoenix Suns (29-20) are in a unique position that every contender, or frankly any other team, wishes they were in. They are the envy of other general managers, coaches and players alike. Not because they have the best record in the NBA or stars aplenty ready to carry the team to a title, but because they have the ability to absorb nearly a max contract for next to nothing. Also, they have no pressure to do anything at all. They have assets and leverage, two things that do not come together very often. Like lamb and tuna fish.

General Manager Ryan McDonough has potentially six first round picks (this and next year) and has acquired just over 19 million dollars in expiring contracts with the prize being the medically insured contract of Emeka Okafor.

Moving Okafor does not hurt team chemistry or break up the dynamic that they have created under Head Coach Jeff Hornacek through the first half of the season, which is always a risk with a trade no matter the talent. Chemistry is organic; not created in a lab meaning the addition or subtraction of an element could shift the parodim in chemistry dramatically. Moving other "assets" like Channing Frye or P.J. Tucker, who have high value on a contending team, could potentially crush the dynamic that has this team. Today they are nine games over .500 when they were supposed to be debating between the options of Wiggins, Parker or Randle.

Instead they are deciding between Pau Gasol, Danny Granger and other potential options that could secure their position ahead of the Dallas Mavericks (29-21) and Memphis Grizzlies (26-22), who are both aggressively chasing.

They are also trying to catch the Golden State Warriors (29-20), Houston Rockets (33-17) and Los Angeles Clippers (34-18).

So what trade or move keeps the Suns securely ahead of the Mavericks and Grizzlies while allowing them to keep pace with the Warriors, Rockets, and Clippers?

Is there a trade that works?

How will the new player (or players) react to Coach Hornacek's style? His coaching demeanor.

Sometimes the right answer is nothing at all. Odds are that Eric Bledsoe is going to play again this season. Often, general managers over think these decisions and make bold moves that end up backfiring on them. Backfiring on the team.

Adding Gasol would give the team a go-to scorer in the paint, something that they have not had in years.  As currently constructed the Suns do not have one player that demand a double-team in any scenario.  Goran Dragic is having a career year, but he is not the type of player that demands a double-team. Neither is Miles Plumlee, Frye nor anyone else on the roster.

Statistically, Gasol was having one his worst season in years, but would still be a positive return for the Suns in the paint which is where they are lacking the most. According to data from 82games.com the four position has been playing even with their competition and the five has been at -0.6 looking at the PER numbers.

During the first 28 games of the year, when the Los Angeles Lakers (13-15) were roughly a .500 team, Gasol was putting up very poor numbers. He has picked that up since then at the expense of team success (3-13) averaging 21.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game on 50% shooting from the field. Just about the right time of year to become a 20-10 player as the trade deadline approaches.

Gasol adds a lot to this team, this year.  The versatility he brings with the option of playing either the four or the five is intriguing next to Plumlee or any of the stretch-fours on the roster, but also moves either Frye, Alex Len, Markieff Morris or Marcus Morris to a very secluded role on the bench. He is also to be had for next to nothing.

Moves for players like Josh Smith (Detroit) would hurt the team long-term and not benefit them in the short-term, either. Adding Zach Randolph (Memphis) would give the team a post scorer, but is unlikely as the Suns and Grizzlies are competing against each other. The Pacers want a piece for Granger, not financial relief. Granger is financial relief for them this summer, regardless.

The Okafor Card is a once in a who knows how long golden goose, but only if used wisely.

Using that Okafor Card for a rental like Gasol gives the Suns a potential trio of Gasol-Bledsoe-Dragic to make some noise in the playoffs. Once the team got past the point of knowing they were not a lottery contender and more of a playoff contender the vision and focus shifted more to adding a piece that would make them more viable contenders in the Western Conference.

One thing the NBA has learned about McDonough is that he is a maverick, but he gets what he wants. He is patient and aggressive. Sometimes the best move is not to make a move at all unless it is the right move.

Time will tell whether there is a right move out there.

The Suns dropped the second game of a back-to-back in Houston, losing 122-108.

Summing it up

The Suns fell behind 12-2 right out of the gates, and despite their best efforts they just couldn't make it over the hump and come all the way back. Goran Dragic kept pace with Houston's James Harden, but the Suns didn't have anyone to slow down or cancel out Dwight Howard's production.

Telling the Story

The Rockets came away with points from each of their first five possessions and the Suns fell behind early on. The Suns hung with the Rockets for the rest of the game, but the hole they dug themselves was too deep to climb out of. Phoenix cut the lead to 35-30 after the first and 66-63 at half after forcing three ties in the second.

Yet every time the Suns made a run, the Rockets answered with a big shot. Houston scored the first six points of the half while Channing Frye missed three straight shots, and the lead was back to nine at 72-63. Gerald Green scored six of the next seven shots to cut it back down to four and keep the Suns within striking distance, but once again the Rockets answered with a three by Chandler Parsons. The Suns stretched the lead out to as many as 12, but the Suns came storming back again to make it 95-90 after three.

Phoenix needed a big push to start the half to make it a new game, but that didn't happen. Phoenix got the first bucket, but Houston scored the next six and the game was more or less over. The Suns just couldn't string together enough stops and buckets. They even resorted to the Hack-a-Howard with just over three minutes remaining, but Howard hit five of his six attempts to ice the game. The Rockets continued to score, while the Suns didn't, and the final score makes it look much worse than it really was for most of the game.

Top Performers

  • Dwight Howard: 34 points, 11-17 field goals, 12-18 free throws, 13 rebounds. Howard was unstoppable all night. He bullied every player the Suns through at him down on the block, and scored with a variety of moves. He even knocked down his free throws. Howard was the difference tonight.
  • Goran Dragic: 23 points, 6-13 field goals, 9-9 free throws, eight assists, six rebounds. Dragic was Dragic and canceled out James Harden's 23 points. Unfortunately, he didn't have a teammate go for 30+ like Harden did.

Final Thoughts

  • Houston made a lot of great shots, but the Suns simply made it way too easy on them. P.J. Tucker gave everything he had defending Harden, but nobody else put up enough of a fight. The Suns' defense has been awful the last two games, and that needs to change very soon or the Suns will hit the All-Star break on a four-game losing streak.
  • The Suns' bench did their job offensively tonight. Phoenix won bench points 46-19, and all five regular rotation bench players made their mark.
  • Leandro Barbosa tied with two other Suns for second on the team in scoring with 13. LB promised to Scott Howard on Twitter that he would start knocking down jumpers eventually, and he made good on that promise tonight. LB was 5-7 from the field and 2-4 from deep. Beep beep.
  • Alex Len's first two minutes of action tonight: three altered shots and a beautiful up-and-under post move for a bucket. I can't wait to see what this kid becomes.
  • Dwight was the difference, but the Suns also let Houston's tertiary guys go off as well. Parsons and Terrence Jones each had 19 points on 12 shots. Tucker held Harden in check as well as you could have expected, but those two and Howard killed the Suns.
  • Channing Frye and Gerald Green have both been struggling lately, on both sides of the ball. That's 40 percent of your starting lineup right there. They need to get going again.

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