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Goran Dragic Gets Started with Brooklyn Nets

Veteran guard broke into NBA 14 years ago playing with Nets coach Steve Nash in Phoenix

The opportunity to play with Steve Nash lured Goran Dragic to the NBA in 2008. Fourteen years later, the opportunity to play for Nash has lured Dragic to Brooklyn and a reunion with his former teammate.

Nash had two MVPs and six of his seven All-NBA honors on his resume already when Dragic arrived in Phoenix. After being traded to Houston in 2011, Dragic returned to Phoenix for the 2012-13 season after Nash left for the Lakers, and a year later Dragic earned the NBA’s Most Improved Player award and was named to the All-NBA Third Team. Nash’s lessons carried through.

“I was sitting next to him on the plane. Just in general, how to be a professional,” said Dragic. “He would be the first guy into the building, take care of his body, then he would go every day through the same reps. That’s why he was such a great person. In general, eating healthy. If you want to play in high 30s, you have to take care of your body. That was something I learned from him. And just in general how to be a leader, how to play pick and roll and try to get everyone involved and this kind of stuff.

“At that time, I didn’t understand a lot of those things that I understand now. But it was great having him for a mentor. And that’s why at that time I made that decision I was going to come from Europe to NBA – only because of Steve. If that were some other team, I probably would have stayed in Europe another two or three years.”

After his second stint in Phoenix, Dragic went on to play seven seasons in Miami, earning a trip to the All-Star Game in 2018 and playing a major role in the Heat’s run to the NBA Finals in 2020. Dragic averaged 20.8 points over the first three rounds of the 2020 NBA Playoffs, but a foot injury suffered in Game 1 of the Finals limited him to 34 minutes over two games in the loss to the Lakers.

Over his 14 NBA seasons, the 6-foot-3 guard is averaging 13.9 points and 4.8 assists per game, shooting 46.2 percent overall and 36.4 percent from 3-point range. He brings more ball-handling and playmaking to a guard rotation that has grown deeper with the additional acquisitions of Seth Curry and Ben Simmons.

“He adds experience, IQ, skill, toughness,” said Nash. “He’s definitely a player who’s not afraid to step up and make plays in big moments and in big situations. He’s been there before. I think he adds a tremendous amount to the group.”

“We know what Goran can do,” said Nets general manager Sean Marks. “He’s tried, true, and tested. Fierce competitor. It was very clear why he wants to be here, and that’s a championship.”

Nets forward James Johnson played with Dragic over four seasons in Miami.

“His competitive nature is top-notch,” said Johnson. “His willingness to make big plays down the stretch and want those plays I think is just going to add another threat to help out this team.”

The Heat traded Dragic to Toronto last summer, but he played just five games at the start of the season. With the Raptors aiming to play a younger group of players, Dragic was eventually traded to San Antonio and waived before becoming a sought-after player among contenders as a free agent. After meeting with Nash and Marks in Miami last weekend, he chose the Nets.

“I had six teams and I’m not gonna say which teams but they were contenders,” said Dragic. “I chose Brooklyn because I think they have a really good chance to win a championship, especially to play alongside KD, Kyrie, Ben Simmons, Aldridge. Those are the guys who have already played in big games, and because of Steve of course. Steve was my mentor. It’s only fitting that when I came to the league I played with him and, you never know, to finish my career with him would be awesome.”

Dragic last played in an NBA game on Nov. 13, and after he joined the Nets for practice this week, Nash said the schedule for his Brooklyn debut was still to be determined.

“He hasn’t played for months but he’s been training,” said Nash. “I think he’s close, but I don’t know about the next couple of days. He’s definitely not going to play tomorrow but we will see after that. It could be two or three games before he plays. We just don’t know.”

“I’m here just to help – to help whatever they need me to do,” said Dragic. “If they need me to run a second unit, I run a second unit. If I’m going to play, I don’t know, five minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes. I’m here because I want to win. I’ve been in the league – this is my 14th year – it’s all about winning at this stage of my career.”

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