Q&A: Goran Dragic

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Monday, January 19, 2015 with No comments
Courtesy of Mark Medina

When this summer approaches and you become a free agent, what will influence your decision?

Dragic:
 “It’s going to be an interesting summer. I’m going to make one of the toughest decisions in my life. I’m going to sit down with my family and my agent and I’ll look at all the options. But I’m really happy here in Phoenix and they have given me everything that I have dreamed of, and this is obviously my first place when I came to the NBA. I feel like at home. But I’ll explore my options. It’s too soon to say something more because I want to be focused on this season.”
Even with the Lakers struggling, do you see them as an option considering their history and their cap flexibility?
Dragic: “It’s not just L.A. I think everybody. Any team in the league. I’m rare in this position. I’ve been working hard and I can explore my options. Back in Europe, there are bad teams financially and teams that aren’t organized. But every team in the NBA is a good organization. It’s going to be tough. But I won’t think about that until after the season.”

What would you think about playing with Kobe Bryant?


Dragic:
 Any player that is one of the best players in the league would be cool. Kobe, of course, he’s a legend. LeBron James. I played with Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Amare Stoudemire, and I know how awesome it is to be around those superstars. If you’re patient enough and you listen, you learn a lot. Of course, Kobe is one of those stars.
You’ve been quoted as dismissing the idea that free agents don’t want to play with Kobe is false. What’s your take on that?
Dragic: “I don’t read the media. But maybe some players had bad experience because they didn’t play well with the Lakers. But I don’t think that is the case.”


How do you think you have done playing the three-guarded system?


Dragic:
 “It was a big adjustment at the beginning of the season. With three guards, it’s pretty tough. All of my life I had played as the only point guard handling the ball. Now I’m playing as a two-guard without the ball. I was frustrated. I was in a position that was different for me. I had different touches and looks. At the beginning, I didn’t play so well. That kind of frustrated me. But then I’ve been more patient and now I feel more comfortable and know what to expect from the game and where I’m going to be. It was a big adjustment for me, but as three guards we have won a lot of games this season.”
What’s been the key to that?
Dragic: “The key is to play hard ever night. Of course, we’re known to play an up tempo game. At the beginning of the season, we didn’t play like that. But now we’re at the point we play faster. With three guards, you never know who’s going to get the ball and who’s going to push and who’s going to run. That messes up the opponent because you have three ball handlers. Sometimes it’s tough to stay in front of them.”
How do you think you’ve grown over the years?
Dragic: “The first years were really tough. It was a different culture and different basketball, especially coming from Europe. Luckily, I had Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Amare Stoudemire on my team to help me a lot.”
What was the culture shock?
Dragic: “Language, of course. Food was different, especially the taste. In general, the city is more massive and more people. I’m coming from a smaller city. Then, the game. The players are much stronger and more physical. They play faster. They play over the rim. Back in Europe, we don’t do that. It was a learning process for me. In Europe, I was so dominant with penetrating and I was so fast and nobody could stop me. I didn’t use my shot and as soon as I got to the NBA, I couldn’t do that anymore. All of those big guys can block your shot. I started changing my game by using step-back floaters and that sort of stuff. That helped me a lot.”
You mentioned Steve Nash. What did you learn from him when you were playing behind him?
Dragic: “It was a privilege and I was really excited to come to Phoenix to learn from him. It’s really tough to say. Every practice, I was guarding him. Every day I learned something. When I play pick and roll, I use that short dribble when I curl around. He taught me a lot about eating healthy and being professional and how to be patient.”
What foods did he tell you to eat?
Dragic: “That’s a funny thing. I was sitting next to Steve on the plane and I was always watching him with what he was doing. He was always on a salad, chicken or rice and that’s it. I’m like how does this guy eat?”
Is that what you eat?
Dragic: “I try. But I love to eat everything. Before I was eating burgers and all the bad foods. When you’re young, your metabolism allows you to eat whatever you want. But when I started talking to Steve, he was 36 or 37, he told me if I wanted to play as long that I would have to start eating healthy. It’s hard. But I started off slowly. Now my wife is cooking for me, all the healthy foods.”
What do you make of what Steve’s been going through with his injuries the past three years?
Dragic: “It’s very tough. I know what kind of person he is. He’s a warrior and one of the best guys ever. When he went to L.A., I think everyone expected that he would be the real Steve Nash. But unfortunately with all the injuries he had, he couldn’t show the people in L.A. that. They already know what he can do, but of course it wasn’t with them. That’s the hardest part for any athlete, including Steve. You want to play. But you can’t because your body doesn’t allow you to anymore.
Have you talked with him recently?
Dragic: “Of course. He’s been good. We talked a month or a half ago. He’s relaxing and doing his stuff. He’s finding different things than basketball. That’s a good thing to do. After your career, you need to know what you’re going to do.”

What do you think of the criticism he’s getting this year that he hasn’t been around the Lakers? Even though he’s been injured, there was hope he’d be around at least to mentor the other point guards.


Dragic:
 “That’s really tough to comment on. I’m not there and don’t know the situation. The only thing I can say is the Steve that I know, he was always here with the team. The team was first and he was second. It’s really tough to say something, though, because I don’t know the situation.”
What were your memories playing against the Lakers in the 2010 Western Conference Finals?
Dragic: “Kobe (laughs). He was awesome in that series. I remember we were all watching tape and we said, ‘Grant Hill plays such amazing defense on Kobe and he still scores over him.’ He’s that kind of player that can always make tough shots. Unfortunately, he was making every shot against us.
But in the fifth game in L.A., Kobe missed a last-second shot that airballed. But Ron Artest caught the ball under the basket and he made a layup. If that didn’t happen, we obviously would’ve won that game and been up 3-2. So maybe the series would’ve been a different story. But that’s always an if.”

What about the battles you had with Sasha Vujacic?
Dragic: “Me and Sasha (laughs). The media blows that up too much. It doesn’t matter if you’re from the same country. But he wants to win a championship and I want to win a championship. Whenever I’m on the floor, even if it’s against my brother, I’m always battling and competing against each other.”