Goran Dragic’s confidence ‘at an all-time high’ as he returns to Phoenix


PHOENIX — Confidence has long been a critical component of Goran Dragic’s success, the lack of which has led to his struggles.

As a rookie in 2008-09, Dragic played timid most of the time to earn the nickname “Tragic” and at one point early in his rookie season I wondered if Sean Singletary might be a better backup.

He returned as a sophomore with a renewed sense of confidence and led the Suns’ best bench of the Nash era to surprising heights.

But his confidence regressed once again in his third campaign playing with an oddly-composed and ever-changing bench unit, and the Suns traded Dragic to Houston as his confidence waned throughout the season.

That’s why I found Luis Scola’s answer about how Dragic improved most throughout his season and a half as a Rocket so interesting.

“I think mostly his best improvement is the confidence,” Scola said. “He needed to be in the court playing significant minutes and also knowing that he’s got the chance to fail and then keep playing. Being the backup point guard for him is a little tough, and when he finally got a chance to play more minutes and play with more confidence he had a chance to make more mistakes without a lot of consequences, and that makes him play even more and make even less of those mistakes.”

If it weren’t for the Argentinean accent and the lack of “Mmm kays,” I would have thought that was Alvin Gentry speaking in 2009-10. Gentry constantly said many of those same things during Dragon’s sterling second season.

Not surprisingly, Gentry raved about the improvement in Dragic’s confidence once again at Thursday’s press conference.

“The thing for me that I noticed the most is that his confidence level is at an all-time high,” the head coach said. “In this league that becomes a really important thing. I think that he feels that he belongs now, he can line up and play against anyone in the league.”

I asked Gentry if he feels Dragic has turned a corner in that regard since he did play with confidence at times as a Sun, and he said that players eventually reach a level where they can put bad games behind them much quicker, which wasn’t always the case for the young Dragon.

Dragic’s confidence finally reached that level when he became “that guy” at the point guard spot for the Rockets following Kyle Lowry’s injury.

No longer was Dragic playing eight minutes and then making way for Steve Nash no matter how good he was going. Instead he was able to run for 35-40 minutes and play through whatever mistakes he made.

Now, this happened on a smaller scale in Phoenix as Gentry gave him a good amount of rope and encouraged him not to worry about mess ups, but never had he enjoyed this kind of freedom to run his own team, the kind of freedom that’s impossible to get with Steve Nash on your roster.

“That gave me a lot of confidence that I can be a starting point guard,” Dragic said of his superb finishing kick.

Dragic’s confidence has grown in terms of his leadership as well. No longer is he that shy kid afraid of taking command of a bench unit full of vets. His court presence is such that he’s not afraid to get in anybody’s face, especially on such a young Suns team.

Dragic even provided veteran leadership this week in Vegas when he asked Gentry if he could talk to Kendall Marshall about his poor first Summer League game “and explain to him it’s no big deal he didn’t play as well as he’d like his first game,” as Gentry remembered it at the presser. “Just remember when I had my first game I left the arena and I went back up in my room and I cried for an hour after the game.”

“I just thought that was great advice, things that he wouldn’t have done a few years ago that he wants to help Kendall in every way that he possibly can,” Gentry said. “I think that those guys are going to be very good together.”

Basketball is a confidence game, and few players need to feel confident quite like Dragic to succeed.

In the end gaining that confidence as a Rocket may have been the best byproduct of the ill-fated Dragic trade to Houston, something that Lon Babby even joked was worth a non-lottery first-rounder.

“My confidence went way up,” Dragic said. “I was not rushing my shots, I was just playing and trying to run the team. I think that’s the main reason I’m a different player now than I was before because I have the opportunity. I don’t have any hard feelings for this organization because I left. I think that was good for me to show all the people what I can do, and I’m really happy to be back.”

Tags: Goran Dragic

  • http://none.com Russell

    Warrick has a team option for 2013-14 with I think a 300k buy out.

  • Shane

    @Greg Oh that is unfortunate.

    @Shane We could also trade Scola, Brown or even Gortat for a SG next offseason. I think some people were mentioning Harden, we could trade some players and picks to them in exchange.

  • http://none.com Russell

    If the Suns are stupid if they offered more then 1 year. just stupid.

  • Greg

    Hmm well Brown or no Brown, we couldnt get an 18 mil max player anyway. and if they are restricted, and we offer the max, if they are a legit max player their teams will likley match, similar to hornets. and if their teams dont match we likley reached out and payed max money to a guy who doesnt deserve it. so stop complaining

  • Shane

    Oops I meant @Russel. Lol

  • http://none.com Russell

    Trading Gortat? And who is going to play Center? It only took us 25 years to get a quality Center in his prime. Sure why not, lets give him away because we want to keep Shannon Brown?

  • Greg

    they have a whole year. they can trade frye and picks and dump his contract on someone else. wow that was easy now they have plenty of money. its not dumbest thing in the world, they have a plan. Lance Blanks is a smart dude, stop ripping the FO we have no clue what they plan on doing in the next year.

  • Shane

    I think we should all just relax and wait until the next off season to see what happens.

  • http://none.com Russell

    The solution was simple, the Suns had the assets in pciks to make a deal for Marcus Thorton or Tyreke,Why go for a scrub on a 2 year deal? this kills any max offer we can give to anyone.

  • Greg

    Gortat is untouchable unless we got rid of him to offer Bynum a max deal, or a S&T with the Lakers. But thats a hypotetical situation obviously

  • CoBo

    @Greg
    Just to clarify Warrick’s contract will come off the books for next year, he has a team option for the 2013-2014 season. I cant imagine the suns picking him up again. Found the info on this website…

    As for the Mayo drama, something doesn’t add up. He signed a two year 8.5 million dollar deal with the Mavs, with the last year being a player option. It can’t be true that he wanted 8 a year from the Suns if he took the deal. I really think the FO may have passed on him.

  • Shane

    @Russell Gortat is expendable, if the option is there to a get a superstar caliber player for a trade involving Gortat would you say no?

    I still think Gortat only had a good season because of Nash and that makes him expendable.

  • http://none.com Russell

    @Greg no one is taking Frye’s contract unless we give up our 1st round pick (not LA’s). Our pick will be in the lottery.

    So in order to sign a max player we will hae to give up our lottery pick because no one is willing to take player that we over paid (Frye) and then we were forced to give up a pick because we signed another player (Brown) also over paying him thus takign away the max player option.

    Why not just not sign him, don’t give the pick, and just sign a free agent to max deal instead? why lose a lotto pick?

  • http://none.com Russell

    @Shane? names?

  • Greg

    Marcus Thornton and Brown are actually very comparable. Thornton shoots everytime. He is worse or equal with Brown in that aspect. And, he shoots similar percentages, worse from 3 then Brown even. He is also 6’4′ so he is also extremely undersized in your opinion.

    Thornton is better then Brown, no doubt. but not significantly better.

    And Evans would not be cheap
    not cheap at all. He is a young talent and the Kings would want a ton in return I am sure.

  • http://none.com Russell

    @Shane unless you are getting Dwight /Bynum for Gortat picks and players no, Gortat is not expendable. He is a top 5 center in the NBA. Centers are impossible to find. It took us 25 years!

  • Shane

    @Shane Bynum? Harden? Iguodala?

  • http://none.com Russell

    @Greg, really? what GM in the league would take 2 shanon Browns for one Marcus Thorton? i don’t think you guy’s watched Brown last year at all, except in teh last month.

    Brown is not a starter, he is no Marcus Thorton. He isn’t even close.

  • Greg

    You dont know that Russell. alot of teams would actually love Fryes ability to stretch floor from 4 and 5, those type of guys are popular trade commodities. We could give up lakers picks and 2nd round picks, but even if it is our later lotto pick (basing it off i dont think Suns are gonna be that bad), I would rather have a MAX player then a late lottery pick, ecspecially in a WEAK draft next year. Look at our last lottery picks. Marshall, Morris, Lopez. You wouldnt trade one of them for a Max player?

  • Shane

    @Russel Bynum? Harden? Iguodala?

    The only reason Gortat is a a top 5 center was because of Nash!

  • http://none.com Russell

    Iggy? no way I’m not giving up Gortat for Iggy. He is a grea defender but he can’ t shoot and he can’t score much. plus he’ll be 30 next year? NO Way!!!

    If you trade Gortat for Harden, you are stuck in the same position you get your 2guard but now you have no Center. we have to get some scrub to play Center because no one is giving up good Centers that play defense and rebounds.

    As for Bynum? yes sure. If you can get me Bynum for Gortat and picks I’ll go for it. can you get him? unlikely.

  • http://none.com Russell

    @Shane I didn’t know Nash taught Gortat how to play Defense and rebound? Good to know.

  • Greg

    I never said that russel stop putting words in my mouth you are being worse then Tony. Im saying Thornton is not significantly better then Brown and he would cost way more. Obviously I would prefer Thornton, but he isnt a talent that makes us that many games better then Brown.

    Thornton is better. I said that. Statistically last year, Thornton was not much better. which is why i said not significantly better. He has had two good scoring years on awful teams.

  • Greg

    he is a glorified Shannon Brown.

  • http://none.com Russell

    Right now of all our starters:

    Gortat, Beasley, Goran, Scola, Dudley

    All are below avg defenders except Gortat. Gortat is the only one on the team that will have any impact on D. the other 4 guy’s are just not very good defenders.

  • Greg

    Russel. you are being ridiculous. Gortat’s assit rate was 80% 2nd highest in the league. Nash clearly was a large part of that 80%, and Nash and Gortat were highly successful in the pick and roll game. Nahs gone, Gortats offense will decline slightly.Shane didnt say anything about rebounding or defense. just stop. you are arguing just to argue now.

  • Shane

    @Russell You are overrating Gortat, you will see this season how he will struggle offensively without Nash.

    You will all see next season how Gortat is nothing without Nash like Stoudamire and many other players are nothing without Nash!

  • Greg

    actually, Goran is not below average at all. he stole nearly 2 balls per game in his two months of starting and he is an active, lengthy defender at the 1. Dudley is also above average, but not by much. Scola is a good post defender, not on the perimeter, he is also average. I am saying all of this based on metrics. Gortat is also not a great defender, but his metrics are outstanding.

    You are seriously pulling stuff out of your ass

  • Greg

    Amare scored 25 a game with raymond Felton Shane….Carmello is only one who hurt amares scoring.

  • http://none.com Russell

    @Greg if Frye had 1 year left on his contract he would be interesting piece for another team or if Frye had 3 years 10 million left someone will take a flyer.

    No one is taking a flyer on Frye for 3 years 20 million. He is a bench player that will make starters money. not happening unless we give them a lotto pick.

  • http://none.com Russell

    @Shane His scoring might go down but he will still get his 12-13 pts 10-11 rebounds a night. He is very very valuable. To me with out a doubt Gortat’s game puts him to top 5 category for Centers. He is a complete player. He gives you everything you want form a Center.

  • Greg

    after this season their will be two years left…which is when theyd look to deal.

    and unless a starter is on a rookie contract, 6.5 million is below average starters money. thats basically the mid-level exception

  • http://none.com Russell

    @Greg Dudley at the 2 is below avg defender, he constantly gets beaten by 2 guards he can’t keep up with them. He is a hustle player, and his best defensive position is at the Small forward where he does ok, but we will play him at the 2, we can not start Brown he is horrific.

  • http://none.com Russell

    Greg good luck selling the Frye’s contract to another team anytime this season. You should ask The Suns FO to hire you because they have probably contacted every team about moving and got laughed at.

  • Shane

    @Russell I hope you are right about Gortat.

  • http://none.com Russell

    Really below starters money? We gave Beasley 6 mil per a year to be a starter. Last time I checked. Did we pay him to come off the bench?

  • Ty-Sun

    LOL. Brown on a 2 year contract isn’t the worst thing the Suns could have done. And since no one actually knows the specific contract details it’s premature to call it a bad move.

    And Warrick’s contract is for two more years but the final year DOES have a team option in it.

    And there is still a LOT of time left before the season starts. Perhaps there is still a S&T option involving Lopez open to the Suns that could bring in more talent at the 2. Yes, Frye won’t be ready to play by the beginning of the season so we couldn’t count on him to back up Gortat but at worst the Suns could sign O’Bryant to an unguaranteed contract until Frye is readdy to return and I believe that Scola was pressed into center duty – with fair success – when Yao first broke his foot so Scola could actually be an option as a backup for Gortat if needed. Honestly, Scola’s so crafty that he could very well eat other team’s bench centers alive if that was how the Suns used him.

    But there is still a lot of time before the season starts and plenty of time and ways for the Suns to add more players.

  • Ty-Sun

    Say what you will about Gortat but how in the world did Steve Nash help Gortat to average 10 rebounds per game? His scoring might fall a little without Nash feeding him the rock but how many 10 rpg centers are there in the NBA? Gortat will continue to contribute even without Nash and it’s not certain that Dragic and he won’t click and at least equal last year’s stats.

  • Tony

    @Ty-Sun,

    please don’t disrespect Nash by putting Dragic in the same category with him. There’s no way Gortat will come close to what he averaged with Nash. Remember, 80% of his points came via Nash assists.

    Furthermore, what disappointed me the most about Gortat last season was his lack of mental toughness and his decline in terms of post defense. So, I don’t care if he averages 20 rpg, if his defense is as it was most of last season and if he can’t average double digits in scoring, he’s not worth his contract.

  • Greg

    beasley is a different case then the average NBA starter , considering he didnt start last year…so dont group him with my comment@ Russell. and yea i know Dudley is a below average 2 defensively, thats why he should be the 3 coming off the bench and he can play some 2. as a 3, his natural spot, he is an average/slightly above average defender..i dont disagree with that and i never said he is a above average 2, once again putting words in my mouth.

  • Greg

    and if frye has a good year after his injury, if there is a team out their hungry for 3 pt shooting, in particular a stretch 4/5, im sure alot of teams would take multiple picks and frye off our hands. we wouldnt get rid of all 6.5 million, but we could take back in a cheaper asset and save us a few million….you are seriously ridiculous

  • Greg

    im not dumb, obviously teams arent gonna be 100% willing to take on 6.5 million, but like i said, we take a 2 or 3 mil player, send out his 6.5 and picks, it could help both teams. you read what i say, maybe you dont, but then you argue against stuff i say by taking it out of context.

  • Greg

    @ Tony, Gortat wont go from 16 ppg to under 10….thats just unfair to even assume hed decline that much. Gortat and Goran will still be a nice combination in time im sure. and metrics wise Gortat was a top 20 defender in the league.

    He obviously isnt a top 20 defender, but his numbers point to it as far as team defense goes.

    also gortats offense my improve because Scola will become the true post presence. He will help Gortat play his more natural style 3-15 feet out. Gortats a nice player regardless of Nash, just not as nice.

  • Ty-Sun

    Lol! Don’t put words in my mouth, Tony! I NEVER compared Nash to Dragic. I just said that there’s is no reason to not expect that Gortat and Dragic won’t click and work well together too. And that Nash had no influence on Gortat’s rebounding. If you take offense at me saying that then I can only assume that you are as delusional as a lot of other people here seem to think you are. You obviously pulled that completely nonexistent comparison of Nash and Dragic that you attributed to me from VERY deep from your ass because it was not anywhere in the post I made.