Before he teams with Reggie Jackson in the Skills Challenge on Saturday night, Phoenix point guard Goran Dragic sat down with the ESPN Radio crew of Marc Stein, Marc Kestecher and P.J. Carlesimo to talk about the surprising Suns, Dragic’s All-Star snub and the relationship between the point guard and Eric Bledsoe.
Marc Kestecher: Your numbers though belie the guy who probably should be playing in the All-Star game — 20 points per game. When Kobe got replaced and you did not get the spot, how did you react to that?
Goran Dragic: You know, I was sad. I was mad, I mean, full of emotions. That’s what it is in this business. There’s even next year, so hopefully I make it. I was working hard, trying to be here that I am now. It’s a great honor to be here and to compete in the Skills Challenge.
P.J. Carlesimo: You should be playing on Sunday. Goran, what did you guys think back in October, when all the teams in the league ‘We can win the whole thing, we can win the whole thing.’ What did you guys really think?
Dragic: What I think is, ‘Hopefully, we gonna be better than last season.’ Last season was really bad for us. Coming into training camp (this year), we had a lot of new faces, a lot of new guys. I didn’t know how we gonna play, what to expect from us. I think so we went step-by-step. We had a great training camp. The Suns organization, they bring in new GM, new coach. Right now, we are in the right direction. The most important thing, what I think is important for our team (is) that we have a great chemistry. Everybody likes each other, and I think so that is the reason that we are so successful this season.
Marc Stein: On the outside a lot of us thought, ‘How is this going to work?’ Dragic, and Bledsoe, two point guards. Why has it worked when Bledsoe’s been healthy, why is it working?
Dragic: Nobody knew if that’s gonna work, including me or Eric. We talked with the coach, Jeff (Hornacek), and he said, ‘Let’s try this.’ You guys have to embrace your roles, have to accept what kind of roles you’re going to have and try to help the team. I think so we did that.
Me and Eric, we talked a lot before the season, you know, because he played his whole life as a point guard, I played my whole life as a point guard, so it was something new for both of us. I think so, just talking, talking with him and trying to figure out those things on the court, think so that’s why we are successful because we share. We share things, and we know if we want to be a successful team, we have to play together.
Kestecher: Your numbers, we talked about how impressive they are, you just had a streak of seven straight games scoring at least 23 that ended against Miami. You’re shooting over 50 percent, which a lot of guards in the NBA can’t say. But the Suns at 30 wins on the season, how much do you guys look already toward the postseason and what you might be able to do in a very competitive Western Conference?
Dragic: We are on the right track for now. It’s still 31 games left, so it’s still a long season. I think so that we are a playoff team, of course, but we have to show that on the court. This second part of the season is the most important part for us. We need to win a lot of games to be a playoff team.
If we make the playoffs, I think we’re going to be a really dangerous team because we never going to quit, we know we don’t have nothing to lose. And we’re going to compete against, let’s say, San Antonio, Oklahoma (City), we know they’re the favorites but we just going to came and play our game and try to win those games.
Carlesimo: Some ESPN analyst said after Bledsoe gets hurt, “I can’t figure out how Phoenix has already done what they’ve done, but now they can’t do it without Bledsoe.” How does that happen also?
Dragic: I think so that’s an easy answer. I think so because of chemistry. We have such a good chemistry in our locker room and on the court, that everybody knows what we have to do if you want to be a playoff team or win games. Of course, Eric, he got hurt, we need somebody to step in. Gerald Green did a great job. Channing did, he came up huge for us too. Including our bench, is great. You know, the Morris brothers, they’re playing awesome. And I’m just happy to be part of this team because it’s so much fun and so much good players on this team. We’re just having fun.
Stein: Now we hear things like, you know what, all these draft picks, maybe they trade one and bring in somebody new at the deadline. Maybe they bring in another big guy to really make a push for the playoffs. Given the fact you guys have such good chemistry, what happens if you have to bring in a new piece? How will that work?
Dragic: That’s a tough question. I don’t know what the Suns are going to do, I’m here only to play basketball and try to be focused on the floor. We trust Ryan (McDonough). He’s a great GM, and he already proved that to the whole NBA that he makes great decisions this season. If he’s going to bring somebody in, all the players, we’re going to accept the guy, and try to bring him in as close as possible and try to feel comfortable like we do. Everybody knows what we have to do, and just try to be friends.
Stein: You didn’t want to leave Phoenix the first time so what is it like to be back and have this second chance and all this success?
Dragic: I think it’s even sweeter now back in Phoenix. I think so that trade that happened when I went to Houston helped a lot, helped me a lot in my career. I was backup to Steve Nash, I learned a lot but I couldn’t get a lot of minutes behind him. That trade was good for me. When I was a free agent, I think they called me and they said they wanted me back. I knew that I belonged there because I have to prove to the … organization that I can play and I can be a starting point guard. That was my goal. Of course, I am always going to be grateful to them because they gave me a chance in the NBA.
Kestecher: You guys are a surprise team in the Western Conference and have a rookie head coach in Jeff Hornacek. Why should he be the Coach of the Year?
Dragic: I think so because last year we had the worst record in the league and this year a lot of media and people were saying it was going to be the same thing. You look at the roster, we have a lot of young players.
I still think so we can even play better, and you know, he’s such a nice guy, great coach, he has a lot of experience as a player. You can see that on the court what he did with that team.
ESPN Tucson’s Zach Clark was kind enough to have me on his radio show on Wednesday. We talked about whether or not Dragic was an All-Star snub, Phoenix’s locker room chemistry and also went over the Pau Gasol trade rumor.