No one knows this more than NBA players. They know when a high-touted player is overrated, and they know when their backup is headed for stardom.
After all, in tight quarters, players are pushing their fellow teammates every day. Some guys break, while others rise to the occasion.
So it wasn’t surprising that when the deal that brought Goran Dragic to Phoenix was completed, the Suns staff received a text from the club’s previous point guard: Steve Nash.
The text was came in the form of a request. Knowing that his new locker would be located in the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, he asked that his Suns locker of eight years be entrusted to his former understudy.
The reason: game respects game.
Through practices and their day-to-day time together, the two playmakers became very close in Phoenix. Also, it should be noted, when Dragic was drafted it was believed that he’d become the franchise’s next great point guard.
Since 1988, the Suns’ floor general has always been an All-Star player. There was three-time All-Star Kevin Johnson, then 10-time All-Star Jason Kidd, followed by two-time All-Star Stephon Marbury, and finally, eight-time All-Star Nash.
Now it’s Goran Dragic.
The 6-3 southpaw didn’t find himself in that locker because it was a statement about him being the next Nash, just like Nash didn’t inherit his point guard job to catch alley-oops like Marbury or out bench-press Kidd. But it did mean that the ceremonial mantle was passed and that there was a new leader on the floor; a new quarterback calling plays for a new era.
In Dragic’s “re-debut” against the Warriors on opening night, he racked up 17 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Compare that to KJ’s debut as a Suns starter (10 points, 16 assists, four rebounds and a steal), Kidd’s (six points, seven rebounds, nine assists and three steals), Marbury’s (14 points, 10 assists and one steal) and Nash’s (12 points, three rebounds, four assists and two steals), and it’s obvious that Dragic is in outstanding company.
“When I came back from Slovenia I walked into the locker room and I saw ‘Dragic’ on Steve Nash’s old locker I asked what was going on,” the 26-year-old point guard said. “I think he did that because he’s happy that I came back and took over his role. Because we played the same position, we had a little bit more of a connection than I would have with a big guy or something like that.”
Through three games, Dragic is Phoenix’s third-leading scorer at 14.7 points a game and ninth in the NBA in assists at 8.7 a game. So it looks as if the locker, as well the baton, is being handed to the right man.