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

    Suns need to go get a 2 guard. Tyreke Evans has a ton of talent, go trade for him. If not ‘Reke, get Marcus Thorton.

    Going in to the season with out a solid 2 guard will make this team 38 win team. they will be stuck with the 11th pick, not good enough to get a star talent. Playing Dudley at the 2 leaves no one on the bench who is a true 2. Go get one of the guys from Sac town now!

    PG – Dragic
    SG – Evans/Thorton
    C- Gortat
    PF- Scola
    SF – Beasley

    Bench: Dudley, Frye, Morris, Telfair, Marshall.

    Package Lopez and 1st round pick +2nd round pick to Sac town. If need be send Marshall too.

  • http://none.com Russell

    Also just a side note, if Tyreke Evans has a break out season or at least a season similar to what he had his rookie year, his price tag will sky rocket. Players are like stock you buy a stock that has talent and potential when it’s down not up.

    Get Evans to the Suns now! Get on twitter and start the #’Reke2Phx2012

  • Greg

    Tyreke Evans would offer a SG thats doesnt shoot well, but would add good length at that spot and he could handle the ball a little bit too. He is also one of the best penetrators/finishers at the rim that the NBA has at he 2-guard spot. He would be a nice addition and would probably fit in pretty well with the cast already in place

  • Greg

    We have to keep in mind dudley isnt a true SG either

  • http://none.com Russell

    Tyreke can shoot well, if he just stops shooting 3′s. His game is very similar to D.Wade’s the difference is D.Wade never tried to take a lot 3 point shots because he knew he was 25% 3point shooter.

    Same thing for Tyreke he is not a 3 point shooter but he taking way too many 3′s. If you take away his 3 point FG shots for his career and just look at all his other shots he is actually a good shooter inside the 3.

    If we want a guy who will shoot well from the 3 then we should trade for Thorton. But he gives us less length on defense, and is not as good a passer as ‘Reke. I would be happy if we got either player. We can’t go in to the season with what we have 2guard right now.

  • http://none.com Russell

    Get KJ on the Phone, let him get the two sides together and make a deal that’s win-win for both teams.

  • http://none.com Russell

    PS, Just checked D.Wade’s stats the first 5 years of his career he averaged about 1 3point attempt a game. But the 3 years before this past season he was chucking up a lot more 3 pointers. Losing his athleticism.

  • Yohance

    If I’m the suns I am not running around with my
    hands on my head screaming who do we sign now
    for our shooting guard spot. However, I do believe that we have a good amount of big men and probably would be wise to see what we could get for one of them. With the addition of Scola. I think would not mind packaging Lopez, Warrick & draft pick for a legitimate sg who could come in and start for us.

  • Cuso

    heard we signed Brown again, not sure on contract terms, hopefully only one year.

  • sun also rises

    @ cuso – I heard the same thing on the radio, and it looks like he’s here for at least two more years.

    http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2012/7/20/3172676/shannon-brown-suns-nba-free-agency-2012

  • Yohance

    But, I would rather our FO to either stand pat with who we got or sign a someone who could just feel in at the spot until we can get a legitimate superstar caliber player. Wether it be via the draft, free agency, or through a trade. In my opinion we need to continue to stockpile assets (draft picks and young talent). We need to get somebody who does not mind a one year deal though. I say try and keep Brown, or sign Barbosa

  • Tony

    Welcome back Shannon Brown…., reports indicating it’s a 2-yr deal. Since the FO struck out on Plans A, B, and C, (Gordon, Mayo, and Lee), Brown for two years isn’t too bad a deal, especially considering he’s already familiar with the Suns system and can help Gentry get the new players adjusted to the system more expeditiously.

    I’m curious how Dragic’s game will be effected playing alongside Beasley and Brown, both of whom are isolation scorers and neither are good passers. Gentry has his work cut out for him in making sure the offense doesn’t become stagnant.

  • Yohance

    Yes,

    That’s what I’m talking about!
    Welcome back Shannon. Ready to see you dunk all over
    all the haters. I can see lobs from Dragon, Marshall, and Telfair all day. He young and I believe if he continues like Dudley to work his game he could be our guy. But in my opinion, I still think we need aother defender at the wing and or a knock down 3 point shooter. I would love to get Brewer,JJ Reddick, Q. Rich, Type of player. Just think of how the Heat uses Shane B. in the playoffs last year. Then in the next year we can push for a legitimate star. Say like Josh Smith or Harden, Iguodola, etc.

  • Greg

    Russell…Actually Evans cant shoot well.

    At the rim he shot 65%, which is excellent considering he took 7 shots at the rim per game.

    From 3-9 feet he shot 27%

    From 10-15 feet he shot 24%

    From 16-23 feet he shot 30%

    From 3PT range he shot 20%

    He is actually one of the best finishing guards at the rim, and one of the WORST shooters in the league at the guard positions.

    He took less then 2 threes a game, so no, shooting 3′s is not his problem, his problem is not laying it in or dunking it. Stats dont lie.

  • http://none.com Russell

    Why sign Brown for two years? wasn’t the plan to leave cap space for next year?

  • Greg

    @ Tony

    The offensive flow concerns me as well. The ball will often stop at Beasley and Brown, but if they can score 15+ points per game each then it might not be the end of the world. Beasley can create his own shot a little bit better then Brown. Shannon needs to be set up a little more then Beasley, but Brown did well as a starter last season, he had games of 32 21 28 and 24, but he also had games of 6, 7, 8, 10. A little more consistency would be nice, but he is not a bad option. More ball movement and a heightened offensive awareness would be nice to see from him.

  • Greg

    I dont know the money or terms of the contract, but I am sure it was no more then 4 or 5 million a year. He doesnt kill our cap space too much, we will be better with him then without him and I think thats why the FO decided on two years.

  • Greg

    (because he wasnt gonna sign for one probably)

  • http://none.com Russell

    I found these stats for Tyreke for last year:

    65.4% at Rim
    34% From 3-9 feet
    26% From 10-15 feet
    31.5% From 16-23 feet
    20% From 3PT range

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/plus/shooting.cgi?player_id=evansty01&year_id=2012

    A little bit higher, but overall seems like he just goes to the rim to score.

  • Tony

    @Greg,

    I agree and from what Brown had said previously, he wasn’t going to accept a 1-yr offer. So, 2-yrs should be ok, although because of both players’ proclivity in taking horrible shots, Gentry has to maintain control over them and not let either of them become another situation similar to Peitrus’s time as a Sun.

  • http://none.com Russell

    @Greg 5million? Are you kidding me???? We could have signed Lee or Mayo for that. Brown is not a 5 million $ player, no way.

  • http://none.com Russell

    if it is 5million for 2 years we will no longer have “max room” cap space for next year. If it was a one year deal we would have about 15-16 mil in cap space for next year, now this leaves with 10-11 mil.

    just a terrible contract. I guess they didn’t learn their lesson from Frye, Childress, Turk.

  • http://none.com Russell

    The only thing that I can think is that FO realized they had no shot at signing the restricted free agents at max contracts next year. And it doesn’t sound like they will have enough money to go after Josh smith, unless they find someone stupid to take on Frye’s contract for an expiring deal.

    Brown adds very little value to this team, he is at best a reserve guard on a decent team. we are grossly undersized if he plays more than 20-22 minutes a night.

  • Shane

    @Russel Mayo opted to go to Dallas despite the Suns offering him more money and Lee has said since the beginning he wanted to join the Celtics because he fits their system well. I do not like Brown either but at 8-9 million for two years is not bad and still gives the Suns cap flexibility.

  • http://none.com Russell

    @Shane that’s the reason they gave him $5 million? are you kidding? That’s the same reason they gave Childress and Frye those horrible contracts, remember? Because They couldn’t get Amare to sign to the none guaranteed deal. So they over paid two scrubs.

    Why not get off their butts and make a move! we have the picks we have the cap space, go put together a trade for a real SG.

  • Shane

    Also I heard the second year Brown can opt out of the contract, so most likely he will inflate his production opt out and look for big money elsewhere leaving the Suns with enough cap space to be able to go after Josh Smith or any other free agent.

  • http://none.com Russell

    oh and don’t forget Hackim Warrick, another contract given as a gift because they didn’t get Amare. what’s with this team and overpaying scrubs because they didn’t get their main options?

  • Greg

    hoops data is accurate. check that site out.

    and obviously we couldnt have signed mayo or lee for that because Mayo wanted 8+ from the Suns (even tho he took less in Dallas) and Lee just got a sign and trade deal worth up to 6.5 per season wiuth incentives I have read. Also, Lee wanted to be on the celtics from the beginning, not PHX. So are you kidding me? Lee or Mayo could not have been signed for 4 or 5 mil or else they would have been here a week ago.

    Dont assume we wont have cap room, there is a whole year from now until next off-season. If the front office wants to make a few extra million in cap space, they will find a way to get it done. Teams find ways to unload cap space all the time. With all of our picks, we can pair picks with Frye or Warricks contracts as incentive for teams to take on their deals, and we wouldnt get anything in return except for the cap relief.

    Goran has good length at PG and Brown is 6’4”….so overall our backcourt is not “grossly” undersized, just slightly

  • Shane

    @Russell The Suns do not have many options at all, so they chose instead to sign a guy who knows the system and will not tie up cap space for the next off season.

  • http://none.com Russell

    He will not opt out. No one will give him 5 mil a year, no one. at most he will get is 2.5-3mil. He is not a 5 mil contract player. The guy will make a few dunks then shoot 38% from the field and suck the air out of the building. This guy is Nate Robinson and no one wants to give Nate even a 1 million any more after that one year when he got 7mil.

  • Shane

    @Russel Hakim Warricks contract comes off the book after this season, freeing up more cap space.

  • http://none.com Russell

    Shannon Brown is the type of player that can shoot 11 for 50 over a course of a week when he is slumping. That’s the type of player guy’s don’t want to see on the court more then 20 minutes because he will damage other players game.

  • Greg

    and russell. why are you comparing a 2 year deal to 4 and 5 year deals? Brown’s contract is no where near the liability you are claiming it us. Like I said, this does not completely screw us, there are tons of options.

  • Greg

    and no. warricks deal is not off the books after this season. its thru 13-14 with no team option in that year, so unless we trade him….

  • http://none.com Russell

    @Shane Hakim Warrick should have never ever gotten a 4 year contract…Ever, all contract eventually come off the books. Why not sign me to 4 year contract and pay me 20mil? I can sit on the bench and clap throughout the game too. And guess what my contract will come off the books in 4 years and clear cap space too.

  • Tim in BC

    I think Brown is not a bad player but kind of streaky and would have preferred Barbossa (what about that Belinini as he is still FA??)

  • Shane

    @Russell It is not for sure that he gets 5 million, its just a rumor that he gets something between 4 and 5 million. Its not the end of the world if he does not opt out because we can trade him.

    I know you do not like Brown and heck I do not like him either but this was the best option for the Suns. You would have rather spent 8 million a year for Lee or Mayo for the next 4 years?

  • http://none.com Russell

    honestly, you guy’s would have never noticed if it was Childress or me playing for the Suns last couple of years. They should have signed me, I might have made a few 3 pointers at least.

    Give me that 30 milllion that he got.

  • http://none.com Russell

    @Shane anything more than 1 year 3 mil is a rip off. He is not worth more.

  • Khalid

    @ Yohance

    The best player would be Barbosa. I hope to see him back at the valley. A one-year contract would be a good start. I guess that would signal the end of the summer player movement. Awaiting Lopez’s decision to take the offer or find another team.

  • Shane

    @Russell My point is we will have the cap space to sign any free agent we want to a max offer next off season.
    You can complain all you want about Warrick and Browns contracts but by next off season they will be gone.

  • Greg

    and in defense of Shane, i dont think he was arguing for the fact that Hakim’s contract was a good deal. He just said it comes off the books, which was wrong, but you totally missed his point.

  • http://none.com Russell

    I know what Sarver is thinking, he is thinking if I sign a bunch of these scrubs I’m bound to get lucky once and maybe one becomes a star. He is trying to win the lottery. He did the same thing with the Warrick, Childress deals he though he had a steal, he thought Childress will be Shawn Marion.

  • http://none.com Russell

    @Shane no we don’t, a max contract for a restricted player starts at 13-14. For a non restricted player like Bynum/Josh Smith/Howard it starts at 17-18 mil.

    If the suns sign Brown to a 2 year deal it only leaves 10-11 million in free cap space, not enough for a max contract.

  • John

    @Russell Complain and cry all you want, will not change a damn thing.

  • Shane

    @Greg I thought Warrick’s last year is a team option meaning they can cut him?

  • Greg

    3+ million is not a rip off. Gerald Green got 3 for 10+, and that was a deal at very beginning of free agency. that set the market for SG, and I dont think Gerald Green is a superior player to Brown, he hadnt even played since 08-09 cause no one wanted him and he was a terrible player. He turned a few ten day contracts into 3 for 10+ then i think Shannon is ok at 2 for around 8 or so. Anything significantly higher is alarming though.

  • Greg

    thats what i wasnt sure of, if it was a team option or not

  • http://none.com Russell

    We only have 2 deals expiring next year (Warrick/Telfair) for a combined 5.5 mil.

    2013 contracts on the Books:
    Gortat 7.7 mil
    Frye 6.4mil
    Dudley 4.25 mil
    Beasley 6.25mil
    Dragic 7.5mil
    Marshall 2mil
    Morris 2.2 mil
    Scola 4.5mil
    Shannon brown 4/5mil
    2 first round picks (3mil combined)

    48-49mil in cap space already. We no longer have cap space to bring in a max player. The Brown deal killed it.

  • Greg

    sources im reading say Hakim’s deal is not a team option for 2013-2014