Suns Still Holding Out Hope For Dragic

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital
By Jerry Brown,
Aug. 1, 2008

As the calendar turns to August, the Suns continue to work the phones in the hope of bringing second-round draft pick Goran Dragic to Phoenix this fall — with the idea of making the 22-year-old the full-time backup to Steve Nash at the point.

Spanish newspapers and Web sites are reporting that Tau Ceramica, the Spanish team that owns Dragic’s rights, is looking into backup plans to replace him if he heads to the NBA this summer. Tau has had talks with former Sun Andre Barrett, offering about $800,000 for his services. Veteran point guard Earl Boykins is also a consideration.

Dragic has a buyout clause (1 million euros, or about $1.5 million U.S.) in his contract with Tau after this season. He can negotiate his own release before this season if the two sides can agree on a number, which would likely be well in excess of next year’s figure.

The Suns can only contribute $500,000 U.S. to pay down the negotiation with Tau. They can offer Dragic a bigger contract to make up for the rest and have their mid-level exception to work with, but that will put them further over the dollar-for-dollar NBA luxury tax and may necessitate a cost-cutting move elsewhere on the roster.

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Tau’s preference is for Dragic to stay, and he was quoted by a Spanish paper last month as saying he expected to put off his jump to the Suns for a year.

Undaunted, the Suns are holding the point guard spot open for Dragic, who they see as someone who can play 18-20 minutes a night right away and even start for Nash in case of injury or a night when they might choose to rest him.

Phoenix struck out in attempts to lure the top-level free agent point guards. Tyronn Lue, Chris Duhon and Anthony Johnson all signed elsewhere for deals in excess of the veteran’s minimum deal the Suns were offering. And the team may have only passing interest in the tier of veteran guards still available.

Veteran Jason Williams is mulling an offer from Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv — worth a bit more than he is being offered by NBA teams — but is more likely to re-sign with the Miami Heat at a figure at or near the minimum. Shaun Livingston, still not cleared for basketball as he recovers from a devastating knee injury, appears likely to re-sign with the Clippers if and when he is able to play.

Even if Dragic comes to Phoenix, the Suns could sign a veteran point guard, with the understanding he would be third-string, or sign a younger free agent with the idea of developing him.

COPYRIGHT 2008, EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE. Used with permission.