Goran Dragic's MIP award helps the Suns move on


dragic2PHOENIX — It’s easy to forget how fortunate the Suns have been with so many dynamic point guards coming through Phoenix in the past two and a half decades.

Jeff Hornacek became better known as a shooting guard, but you know he saw himself as a point. Kevin Johnson led to Jason Kidd led to Stephon Marbury. Yep, we’re counting Stephon Marbury.

The Suns have always had an electric starting point guard and that was the case in the summer of 2008. The team did, however, need a backup after it accepted the fate of the failed Marcus Banks signing two years earlier. Suns owner Robert Sarver remembers former executive David Griffin asking him for $500,000 on draft night.

“I go, ‘When?’” Sarver recounted Wednesday. “He goes ’10 minutes. We got to buy this draft pick, we got to get this guy from Europe.’

“I go, ‘tell me about him.’ He goes, ‘Here, well watch this real quick.’”

Watching a highlight reel of the mysterious point guard, Sarver remembers pointing out an impressive move — it was the Eurostep. That was enough convincing; he gave Griffin the $500,000, which was packaged with the 48th pick to move up to the 45th pick in the draft, where the San Antonio Spurs selected for Phoenix.

That’s where the Suns’ relationship with Goran Dragic, the NBA’s newly-crowned Most Improved Player, begins.

Learning English was Dragic’s first hurdle when the Suns finally handed over another $500,000 to his European squad as part of a buyout agreement. The next was getting accustomed to the speed and physicality of the NBA as a rail-thin 22-year-old. It was ugly at first.

“Somebody said that I’m the worst player in the NBA, and my last name should not be Dragic but ‘Tragic,’” Dragic said Wednesday, referring to a comment from former ESPN writer John Hollinger. “Every time I was in a practice court, I had this in my mind.

“Even people back home, when I went to the NBA they were questioning whether I was good enough, I’m skinny, I don’t have outside shot.”

When Dragic earned the NBA’s 2014 Most Improved Player award, it was the culmination of a long road to success that included a trade from Phoenix to Houston, and then a re-signing with the Suns.

“I’ll mention that I had the foresight to bring him back as a free agent,” said Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby on Wednesday. “We won’t discuss why it was necessary to bring him back as a free agent.”

The ‘why’ on the surface was about the Suns regretting a trade of Dragic to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Aaron Brooks. Deep down, it was clawing out of a prolonged mourning process — Sarver admitted as much — once it was clear Phoenix needed to move into a new era.

The MIP trophy presentation included a stage in the pavilion of U.S. Airways Center. NBATV broadcasted the ceremony, which included a gathering of more than 100 Suns employees, some of whom were Dragic’s teammates. The event was, finally, an opportunity for Sarver, Babby and Hornacek to celebrate a season that included too many oh-so-close moments rather than significant achievements — the tenor during exit interviews seemed like the Suns truly felt they failed by missing the postseason.

Here the Suns rejoiced over a consolation prize for Dragic, who put in a historic season yet didn’t make the All-Star game. It was bigger than that, too. This was not only about the 2013-14 season, or the historically bad year before. The Suns were moving on.

Former Valley of the Suns reporter Tyler Lockman covered Dragic’s MIP press conference for FOX Sports Arizona and had a telling observation about the half-hour tribute to Dragic.

Steve Nash wasn’t mentioned.


  • Foreveris2long

    There was no sound but I saw all of the presentation. Priceless event with his wife, child, management and some teammates in attendance. It was an absolute 1st class event. Props to the Suns for realizing they made a mistake in trading him AND a 1st round pick and brought him home where he belongs. Now let’s get to the playoffs next season. I have never been more proud to be a Suns fan.

    Kev I saw you at the award presentation.

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    Ha, on NBA TV? I had to rush over and felt like a scrub. Didn’t know they were making it a big televised deal.

  • Foreveris2long

    Yeah Kev, it was great. NBA televised the entire event starting with the introduction of Sarver, Babby and Coach. It was really well done. I only wish I could have heard the dialogue. It had to last at least 30 minutes.

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    Forever, you mean there was no sound at all? Suns.com has a replay of the whole thing here: http://www.nba.com/suns/now

  • Foreveris2long

    Awesome. Thanks Kev. The restaurant I was in does not play the sound of the sport shows.

  • Roger

    Congrats to Dragon for 2013-14 MIP. Wish you were voted in for All-Star. It would’ve been very nice for fans to enjoy your accomplishment but nevertheless, we’re still very proud of you for giving us fans a great season of joy. My only regret is you missed out on your $ 1m bonus to make the All-Star. Don’t worry, Sarver will pay when you sign your new contract next year. Relax, heal, enjoy your new baby, no Euro games this summer please and come back in fall totally rejuvenated to take Suns to next level.

  • EBJM

    Disappointing that Babby cannot even pronounce Dragic correctly.

  • EBJM

    I wonder if this award will provide his younger brother with an opportunity?

    In 2011 Zoran was the Slovenian League”s MVP, Player of the Year, & Defensive Player of the Year.

  • Luka

    Lon Babby is a moron.

  • foreveris2long

    Kev, the video was cool but on the live telecast on the big screen I saw teammates, you, Coro and Dragic’s wife and son quite a bit. Dragic’s son had a Suns jersey with Dragic on the back and #1. It was a great scene. Anyway at least now I got to hear the broadcast. Thanks

  • DBreezy

    I’m pretty sure Goran Dragic would have made that layup Daryl Morey….

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Harrison twins announce they will return to Kentucky for their sophomore season.

    Kentucky will have nine McDonald’s All-America’s on their roster next season.

  • EBJM

    James “Big Money” Harden 13-35!

  • DBreezy

    Their whole team is struggling EBJM, but they got the win. POR had the chance to put the Cobra clutch on them last night and let it slip away. They need to put them down in game 4 because sooner or later, a lot of these dudes are gonna get hot between the law or averages or simply more familiarity with the opponents schemes and players.

    JVG said something interesting to me about Harden last night. He commented that he’s missed some shots he can make, but that a lot of it is that he’s not getting the same calls he got during the regular season. I’ve been watching the WC playoffs in particular with an eye towards what teams I feel that the current Suns could compete with on a playoff series level. JVG’s comments made me really think about how Goran and Bled would look if they were given the same treatment by the refs. Steph Curry threw his mouthpiece over it the other day, and I doubt Goran or Bled would be treated any better. Same goes for some of what Conley has been doing to Westbrook in the half court.

    It kind of reminds me of when I first became a Suns fan and watching how teams like the Blazers would just manhandle KJ in the postseason with no calls(Ainge and Porter). I’m a big KJ guy, but I will say that is one area Nash handled better than him. Nash might not get the foul calls in the postseaon that he did in the regular season, but in his prime he was still able to get shots off which kept the Suns offense from capitulating-except against Bowen. I thought Damian Lillard did a nice job of that a few times in the second half of last night’s game.

  • EBJM

    Sorry DBreezy, my point is he took 35 shots, not how many he hit. Westbrook is getting killed for jacking up too many shots but Harden is jacking up more without a single criticism.

  • DBreezy

    Gotcha EBJM. There’s always going to be more criticism of Westrbook because he has Durant and to a lesser degree Ibaka. Harden doesn’t have as much if Parsons is in foul trouble and Howard is being Howard. Not fair to Westrbook, but I don’t see that changing unless the Rox do in fact add Melo or if they had kept either of Lowry or Dragic instead of signing Lin.

  • Foreveris2long

    I suspect everyone has heard racist comments allegedly made by Clippers owner Sterling. If proven he said these things (the tape sounds like him), it will be very interesting what the NBA does to address the issue. A boycott is planned for Tuesday’s game in LA. Elgin Baylor has to feel terrible as he lost his race discrimination law suit against Sterling a few years ago.

    As for the Thunder, if they lose this series, Scott Brooks has to insist they change the way they play. Ibaka and probably another player have to get more shots. Win lose or draw, you cannot win in the playoffs with defenses only being concerned with 2 players. It is a formula for disaster. I doubt it is in Westbrook’s DNA to accept that 2 man basketball will not get it done in the playoffs so Brooks has to stand tall. I love Westbrook but he needs a voice like Doc Rivers addressing the issue. Scott Brooks has to be that guy.

  • EBJM

    Forever, can the NBA suspend an owner?

    I think we can all agree that V. Stiviano has her own agenda. She is so obscure that I can’t even find any information on her. She is beautiful, way too hot for old man Sterling. I think Sterling is 81 years old.

    I did read that Sterling has a $1.8 million embezzlement lawsuit against her. This will go down as one of the most expensive “girlfriend experiences” (wink, wink) of all-time.

    Sterling has a history of racism. V. Stiviano is apparently African-American-Hispanic (Mexican?) Sterling has gone all the way back to America’s slave days, where the old white men used to keep “comfort women”.

  • EBJM

    Forever, I proposed a trade of Westbrook to Boston for Rajon Rondo and Kelly Olynyk IF the Thunder don’t win the title this year.

    Boston gets their younger Super-Star to build around and OKC gets a veteran PG who has won a title and another center more in the mold of Steven Adams.

    Win-win for both teams.

  • EBJM

    Boris Diaw for the lead and then Vince Carter for the win!

    If the Suns had kept those guys along with Robin and Marion the Suns would be in the playoffs!

  • DZ

    Vince Carter never wanted to be a Sun. He made nice noises when he was here but basically mailed in almost all of his playing time.

    Diaw did the same until he came to the Spurs.

    Both of them would have been slugs as Suns if they were still here. They would have believed that the Suns were a 15-20 win team this season and would have played at a level that would have made it so.

    Marion is still playing great but he wanted out to try and be “the man” on another team. That didn’t work in Miami or Toronto and Marion finally accepted that he was at best a “Robin” when he wound up in Dallas.

    Robin Lopez is doing great with the Blazers but I honestly think that his numbers wouldn’t look nearly as good playing with Channing Frye instead of LaMarcus Aldridge.

  • EBJM

    I was joking!

  • EBJM

    Marion isn’t even a “Robin” in Dallas. It is now Monta Ellis’s team with Nowitzki playing “Robin”.

    They tried to move Marion’s contract but couldn’t do it. He and Carter are on expiring contracts as is Nowitzki.

    i’m fairly sure they will use the $12.5 they pay Marion and Carter to sign someone younger and better.

  • DBreezy

    Just saw our COY runner up while I was out to dinner tonight. Nice guy as you would expect.

  • DBreezy

    The NBA deserves what it is getting with Sterling. As a few of you know, I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan. Years ago when Marge Schott was the owner, she also had a lot of shenanigans racial and otherwise. MLB repeatedly looked the other way or gave her BS fines and suspensions until she took the ESPN airwaves to praise Hitler which ultimately led to her being forced out. I was embarrassed as a Reds fan, but not for MLB for putting up with it for so long and I feel the same way about the shit pie that Silver and crew are currently eating. Here’s a recap of the great Schottzie for those that don’t remember.

    http://www.azsnakepit.com/2011/5/9/2159424/baseballs-greatest-scandals-marge-schott-cincinnati-reds

  • foreveris2long

    I think they can suspend him EBJM but the difficult part I think is for it to be meaningful. I think for it to be meaningful Sterling has to be denied all revenue during his suspension. Does this mean the NBA runs the franchise during the suspension? I admit to not knowing the answer to what happens to make a suspension meaningful. I hope this option can be explored.

    The Sterling lawsuit was brought by Sterling’s wife since he allegedly bought the girlfriend gifts with community property.

  • vtsunrise

    June 16, 2017:
    Goran Dragic wins Finals MVP.

  • EBJM

    You must be an insider Forever as I couldn’t find any details on her or the lawsuit. I thought his wife must have passed, I didn’t realize he was cheating on her.

    Then I found an L.A. times article this morning.

    “In a court filing, Stiviano’s attorney, Mac Nehoray, argues that a gift cannot be revoked by the giver and that there is not “a peppercorn of a fact” that any fraud or undue influence was involved.”

    I don’t see how Vanessa is liable. Sterling gave her the items. She must be good, she used the $1.8 million to buy a duplex in Beverly Hills and he also gave her a 2012 Ferrari, two Bentleys and a 2013 Range Rover.

    He also gave her $240,000 cash for living expenses bring her grand total to $2.55 million dollars in “gratuities”!

  • vtsunrise

    This is fascinating stuff. Coverage of Sterling’s comments simultaneously on ESPN, NBA-TV, MSNBC and CNN this morning.

    I see this as a really interesting drama involving racism, a true A-hole, sports, economics and social norms.

    From TV coverage, Baron Davis just last week had shared some highly charged comments about how degrading and demoralizing it was to work for Sterling, who repeatedly verbally abused him as his star player and top salaried employee. There’s a line people in power and in the limelight can’t cross. And what happens when they do? I’m thinking about Don Imus and others.

    Each situation is different but the common thread here is that Money Speaks. Ask Vladimir Putin in a year or two or in a decade… but I digress.

    If this guy is found to have said these things, which seems 99.99% certain, whatever sanctions the NBA immediately imposes will be just a start. He has ruined whatever was left of his reputation, and society, in the form of actions by fans and players as well as the rest of the league’s owners, will eventually speak.

    Whether immediately or down the road, I believe Sterling’s days as an NBA owner are numbered, and it’ll be very interesting to see how this plays out in terms of stands that various “players” – not just NBA players – in this drama make.

    Fascinating snap shot of US (yes, USA and us as a society) in 2014.

  • vtsunrise

    @forever:
    “Elgin Baylor has to feel terrible as he lost his race discrimination law suit against Sterling a few years ago.”
    - I think I read it was age discrimination.

  • vtsunrise

    Actually, re: Baylor-Sterling:
    I guess both were in play but he dropped the racism charge, probably because he had less legal grounds there.
    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/30/sports/la-sp-clippers-baylor-sterling-20110331

  • foreveris2long

    Yeah VT both were in play and if I am not mistaken the court may have forced him to dismiss the racism allegation due to lack of evidence. Normally the way it works with any type of discrimination, a plaintiff needs direct evidence (like what Sterling did on the video) or a mountain of circumstantial evidence which I do not think Baylor had. As a side note, I think his attorney was Carl Douglass whom I met and was one of OJ dream team attorneys.

    EBJM, Sterling is believed to be separated from his wife, not divorced. Therefore she essentially is alleging he took community property assets in obtaining the gifts for his girlfriend. I think it is a really weak case for reasons her attorney alleges and normally once a couple is living separate and apart the earnings are no longer community property. I am assuming he was not living with his wife while dating his girlfriend but I could be wrong.

  • foreveris2long

    VT I just went back to review some of the race case Baylor had and the fatal blow was the court deemed certain alleged racial statements inadmissible rendering it really difficult for Baylor to succeed, resulting in him dismissing the race case.

  • foreveris2long

    OKC finally finds a way to share the love. Scott Brooks has to insist they share the rock if they are going to succeed in the playoffs. Props to Reggie Jackson for essentially saving their season last night. I think Ibaka had 5 blocks, wow.

    Now we get the Clips and Warriors today as well as Rockets v Trailblazers. I love the NBA assuming they somehow rid themselves of Sterling.

  • EBJM

    The Elgin Baylor lawsuit was ridiculous. He is perhaps the worst player turned coach/G.M. in the history of the league.

    This is a guy who coached the New Orleans Jazz with Pete Maravich, Gail Goodrich, Truck Robinson and Rich Kelley to the number one overall draft pick which belonged to the Lakers and turned into Magic Johnson.

    Of course it probably didn’t help working for the original Robert Sarver!

  • foreveris2long

    Yeah he was pretty bad EBJM. I am going to play hoops and hear the Sterling skuttle in the gym this morning. Check you guys after while. Oh yeah Hoopshype is commenting that if Rockets loseHarden’s reputation will be on the line. I personally think at age 24 that is a lot of pressure to place on him but then again when you are a near max player it comes with the territory especially when this is his second trip to the playoffs. Hopefully he performs better but I hope Trailblazers win.

  • EBJM

    Rochelle Sterling refers to their relationship as an “affair”. The inference seems obvious but I don’t know. She seems to be quite angry with Vanessa.

    I mean Sterling is worth around $1.5 billion dollars, so what is a couple of million? I’m sure she probably easily blows more than that on something frivolous for herself.

  • DZ

    Personally, I wish there was some way the NBA could force Sterling to sell the team to the group in Seattle that tried to buy and move the Kings there.