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Phoenix Suns right a wrong by bringing back an improved Goran Dragic


Lon Babby (left) had no problem admitting his mistake of trading away Goran Dragic in 2010-11 after signing him to a lucrative four-year deal. (Photo by Michael Schwartz/ValleyoftheSuns)

PHOENIX — At his end of year press conference following the 2010-11 season, Lon Babby took the podium and proclaimed that “the jury’s out” on the trade that sent Goran Dragic and a lottery-protected first-round pick to Houston for Aaron Brooks.

That theoretical jury returned at Thursday’s presser and left no question that the Suns were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of making a bad trade, yet the most impressive part was that once again the Suns were willing to swallow their pride to correct a mistake.

The Suns did this in 2008-09 by firing Terry Porter at the All-Star break after a 28-23 first half in which Porter proved to be a poor fit and once again by dumping Shaq a year and a half after his acquisition.

The front office members are different this time around, yet they still had no problem admitting being wrong.

“If we made a mistake and it’s important for people to admit that we made the mistake, then I admit we made a mistake,” Babby said. “What’s more important is how do we learn from it, how do we profit from it, how do we move forward? We couldn’t be more thrilled that it turned out the way it did, but I couldn’t tell you this is how we exactly planned it.

“Many of us believe had Goran not left he would have never had the opportunity to spread his wings and grow in the way he has. We’re thrilled that he did come back here. There’s an old expression that you’ve got to be big enough to admit your mistakes, strong enough to profit from them and strong enough to correct them, and bringing Goran back here if that’s what we’re doing I’m proud of that.”

It’s not exactly earth-shattering news at this point that that trade was a poor one, but it’s rare to see a front office trade a player to upgrade the backup point guard spot only to bring him back a year and a half later as a new team leader.

It could only happen because Dragic left on such good terms, always wanted to be in Phoenix and then became a much better player after he left.

Dragic did not hold a grudge for being blindsided by the trade, offering one of the highlights of the presser by asking, “Can I say something?” before Gentry retorted, “It’s your press conference.”

“Of course when I got traded I was a little bit sad but then you realize that that’s part of the business,” Dragic said. “I think that was the best thing that happened to me because I could play more minutes, I could demonstrate that I could play in the NBA, and I don’t have hard feelings of any of the guys in this organization. That’s why I come back because I like it here and I think I’m going to have a bright future here.”

Lee traded to Celts, SG options barren

The Boston Celtics are close to acquiring Courtney Lee in a sign-and-trade with the Rockets, which means the Suns’ chances of acquiring a quality shooting guard this offseason just took another major hit.

Phoenix has roughly $13.5 million to spend when not considering Robin Lopez’s $7.2 mil cap hold but no quality wing to spend it on.

Since I have been in favor of offering O.J. Mayo and Lee one-year deals for big money, I’m sure it’s no surprise to you readers that at this point I would not consider any multi-year deals to fill this hole. A long-term contract would be understandable but regrettable to nail down a talent like Mayo or Lee, but nobody left is worth such a commitment.

Restricted free agent Brandon Rush is interesting, but offer sheets must be for at least two years not including options. A Lopez-Rush swap could make sense at the right price but I still would not like a multi-year deal for him.

Shannon Brown is always an option and then there’s my personal favorite, Michael Redd, if the Suns can add another wing as well.

With that much cap space left the Suns could always try to pay Lopez handsomely for one year to turn him into an enticing expiring contract (as well as a 24-year-old 7-footer), or they could hoard it for a lopsided trade later in the season.

A new number for a new beginning

Goran Dragic left as a No. 2, but he’s returning as a No. 1.

That goes for his number as well as his place on the point guard depth chart.

“I chose No. 1 because it’s a fresh start for me, it’s a second time that I came back,” Dragic said. “I’m a new guy now. I’m a different player, different person than when I was here. I want to have a fresh start here.”

And 1

Dragic said the Rockets, Raptors and Bobcats all chased him, with Charlotte offering the most money.

Gentry said he “was actually really surprised” that he was even available to the Suns after his strong second half.