Dragic on Suns: 'We're Never Going to Surrender'
The scene after a disheartening 110-101 loss to the Cavaliers this week was dismal. Goran Dragic had a towel over his face and an impressively large ice pack on his ribs, which had taken roughly 27 too many hits from defenders on pick-and-rolls.
P.J. Tucker, the guy Head Coach Jeff Hornacek called the “emotional heart of the team”, was nowhere to be found due to a league-mandated suspension. Eric Bledsoe answered more questions about the team’s loss than his effort that yielded 15 points, nine assists, three rebounds and two steals despite over two months’ worth of rust and knee rehab.
Fast forward 12 hours to the next morning’s practice. Dragic looked rested and sounded optimistic. Tucker was back with the team and, as usual, being the comically vocal center of all the action. Bledsoe was sore, but it was the kind of sore he’d missed for two months.
Hornacek, fresh off hitting yet another half-court shot in friendly competition (though Channing Frye came away with the win that day), was helping his still-surprising team of unproven youngsters realize a lesson he’d learned in his 14 years of playing and additional seasons in the coaching ranks.
These things happen.
“We all get down when you lose games, when you think things should go another way,” he said. “Teams are going through that now.”
Hornacek pointed to Miami (lost four of their last five), Indiana (ditto) and Oklahoma City (back-to-back losses to the Suns and Lakers last week, 5-5 over last 10) as examples.
He did not, however, use them as excuses for the Suns’ recent slide, which he dubs a “defensive issue.” Beyond that, he’s looking for his team to manufacture the same intangible edge they stumbled upon at the beginning of the season, one they rode to a 19-11 start and sustained through Bledsoe’s injury until this month.
“We’re just not as scrappy and as tough as we were earlier on. We’ve got to get back to that,” Hornacek said. “We’ve got to try to find that next gear. When you’re tired, you have to battle through it.”
Dragic is the epitome of that philosophy, having overcome a head-to-head collision, stitches, sprained ankles, the birth of his first child and the main defensive attention from opposing teams this season.
Like Hornacek, Dragic believes the team’s current dry spell is one good game away from ending.
“Every team goes through that through the season. It depends on what time. Unfortunately for us it’s right now,” he said. “I think we’re a good enough team that we can figure those things out and try to catch that hot stretch for us, try to win a couple games in a row. I think we’re capable of doing that.”
It’s hard to refute the notion, especially from a team that has made “defying the odds” a routine affair this season.
Luckily for them, they don’t have to do that for the rest of March, which boasts just one opponent with a better record than Phoenix.
If the loss to Cleveland was a gut-punch, Hornacek thinks the recovering breath is already in process, and will hopefully be followed by a response on the road, where the Suns will play three games in four nights.
For a weary team, it seems tiring. For Hornacek and the Suns, it’s opportunistic.
“Now we get to go on the road, try to band together as a team, go on the road and see what we can do,” Hornacek said.
As for Dragic, he knows what the team won’t do.
“We’re never going to surrender,” he said. “This team, we have character. I know we had some slippages in the last few games, but we’re always going to fight back.”