Same ol' Goran

“He’s going to be a while,” Suns Vice President of Communications Julie Fie said to me. “Is that alright?”

“No problem at all,” I replied.

I’d wait all day if I had to.

The Suns had just returned home to Phoenix after finishing up a 4-0 series sweep against the San Antonio Spurs in the 2010 Western Conference Semifinals.

Practice had ended 30 minutes prior, and Goran Dragic was the only player left on the court.

I was there to interview Dragic for an article to be featured in SLAM Magazine about his historic performance in Game 3. Yes, the night when Dragic hit nine of 11 shots (including all four 3-point attempts) to score 23 of his 26 points in a dazzling fourth quarter en route to a 110-96 victory over the Spurs and a 3-0 series lead.

"I think it's safe to say that may have been the best fourth-quarter performance I have ever seen in a playoff game," Suns forward Grant Hill said at the time.

It was, perhaps, one of the most iconic performances in Phoenix Suns history.

Now 45 minutes removed from practice, Dragic was still working.

Surprisingly hard, mind you.

Sprinting. Cutting. Shooting jumper after jumper.

After about 50 free throws, Dragic finally called it a day. At this point, he had been shooting by himself for over an hour. He thanked his rebounder and quickly jogged over to me.

“I’m so sorry, man,” Dragic said. “I didn’t mean to keep you waiting. Do you still have time?”

What I was thinking: “Seriously? You are apologizing to me ? You are an NBA player. You are helping me out and I’ve never met you. You almost single-handedly beat the Spurs in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals. You are preparing for the Western Conference Finals. You have nothing to apologize for .”

What I actually said: “No problem.”

We talked for about 20 minutes on what his performance in Game 3 meant to his confidence and career in general. During the conversation, he couldn’t stop smiling. Not in an arrogant way, but because his hard work had finally paid off; things truly clicked and he was beyond appreciative of the position he was in.

Nearly four years later, nothing has changed.

His work ethic, humor, kindness, humility…they’re the exact same.

To this day, Dragic still stays long after practice and works on his shot. He still apologizes if the media has to wait for interviews. He still smiles when reminded of what a kid from a small country like Slovenia has been able to accomplish in the league.

Amazing, since he’s finally starting to get the notoriety he deserves for his outstanding 2013-14 campaign thus far.

That is to say, in spite of not being selected to the 2013-14 All-Star team, at the very least, he was universally considered to be deserving of a spot.

It’s okay, though.

For Dragic, that just means he’ll work harder.