Q+A: Goran ‘Dragon’ Dragic
SLAMonline raps with the West’s Player of the Week.
by Maurice Bobb / @ReeseReport
Goran Dragic currently draws a paycheck from the Houston Rockets. But back when the lefty point guard was attacking defenses off the dribble in a Phoenix Suns’ uni, no one seemed to be able to pronounce his surname.
Instead of Dragic, as in drah-gich, it was phonetically mangled into something that sounded like tragic or drag it.
Not even two-time MVP Steve Nash, one of the best in the L to ever execute a pick and roll, could stick the landing on the pronunciation of the kid from Ljubljana’s last name. Necessity being the mother of invention and all, Nash lobbed one helluva nickname Dragic’s way. After going rogue like Palin on the San Antonio Spurs in the West semis in 2010 for 23 fourth quarter points and, after he out Vujacic’d Sasha Vujacic in the conference finals against the Lakers, Nash and everyone else started calling the Slovenian wunderkind “Dragon.”
And rightly so. But after a PG swap that landed Aaron Brooks in the Valley of the Sun and Dragic in the land of NASA, things quickly went from hot to cold. Not to mention, Kyle Lowry was ballin’ like he spent the past summer locked in a gym somewhere with Isiah Thomas—not that Isiah, the other one, you know, before he tried to kill the Knicks.
Lowry’s impressive play limited Dragic’s minutes significantly, but when the Villonova alum came up ill, the Dragon went illy on ‘em and the League took notice.
This past Monday, after ballin’ so hard (cue the N-words in Paris track) and helping the Rockets to a 3-0 record last week with averages of 20.7 points, 8.3 dimes, 3.0 boards and 2.7 thefts, Dragic notched a spankin’ new Western Conference Player of the Week honor to his belt and, you guessed it, a place in SLAM’s very prestigious catalog of ballers.
We put a microphone in front of the Dragon and here’s the hot fire he spit:
SLAM: OK, let’s start with the nickname. What gives?
Goran Dragic: I like it. When I was in Phoenix, no one could pronounce my last name, Dragic, so Steve Nash called me The Dragon and that’s how I got my nickname. But at the same time, I come from small city called Ljubljana, and the logo for the city is a dragon, so it’s a perfect fit for me. There aren’t a lot of NBA players from my country, so for me, it’s something special. I’m really proud of my country and I’m proud to represent the dragon.
SLAM: So how does it feel to win the Western Conference POW? Did you celebrate like Kentucky fans after they won it for Coach Cal?
GD: No [laughs]. I’m playing well and my team is playing well, so it’s a great feeling. It feels amazing. I’ve been dreaming about this moment I was working hard and you know when you get an opportunity, you have to take advantage and I did that and I just want to enjoy this moment.
SLAM: Since you’re a lefty and crafty—not in a Beastie Boys way, but—a lot of people compare you to Manu Ginobili. You must hate that, right?
GD: I think it’s a good comparison. Manu’s a great player. He’s won NBA titles and is just a winner. I don’t know, maybe people compare us because I’m a lefty too, and a lot of people say I have the same game, but, you know, I just try to go out and play my game.
SLAM: Come on, you can tell us: don’t you lefty players practice some kind of bizarro world moves or something?
GD: Everything is different for lefty players because we go to the opposite side than other players [laughs]. But you know, I try to play loose and make some good action for the fans. I just try to go out there on the court and express myself in the game.
SLAM: When you dropped 23 in the fourth quarter on the Spurs’ heads in ’10, that was your coming out party.
GD: That was my first Playoffs and it was something special for me. It was my first time in the playoffs and it was against a big rival like San Antonio and that game was my best game in my life. Since then, I just tried to improve my game and try to be consistent.
SLAM: Well you’ve definitely been consistent in the last 18 games, notching double figures in 18 straight games and anchoring the Rockets while Kyle Lowry was out.
GD: I try to play as hard as possible and I try to do everything in my power to play well. And if you have more chances, then you can really express yourself on the court and I did that. I’m playing great and my teammates are helping me a lot. And it’s not only me; it’s the whole team playing really well.
SLAM: The Rockets have moved on up like the Jefferson’s in the playoff race. Have other teams started to take notice of the Rox?
GD: I hope so. It’s a crazy season with a lot of games in a short amount of time. We didn’t have much time to gel at the beginning of the season, but now we’ve found the right rhythm and we have great chemistry.
SLAM: So now that Lowry is back, what’s going to be your role moving forward?
GD: I think we can play together, last night we played a lot of minutes together. It’s going to be good for me. He can play pick and roll, I can play pick and roll, so it’s going to be tough on defenses and at the same time, we can push the ball more and play faster. But you know, I’m just satisfied with my role and I don’t know if there’s going to be something different. I just want to win some games and that’s the most important thing right now.
SLAM: What has it been like to play for Kevin McHale?
GD: He’s a great coach and a great person. He gives everybody freedom to play your game. He tells you that if you battle hard on the court, you’re going to get a lot of minutes, so I’ve remembered that since the first day of training camp. Coach was a great player and he’s a great leader. He always gives us that extra motivation.
SLAM: So what, are you trying to do a last minute snatch and grab for the Most Improved Player of the Year award or something?
GD: It’s hard to work on your game because there are so many games. I’m just gonna play 100 percent with my heart, I’m gonna battle for every loose ball and try to make good plays for my teammates. And if you work hard, good things are gonna happen.
SLAM: What was the most important thing you learned as Steve Nash’s understudy?
GD: I would say everything. I was playing him in every practice, I was defending him and I learned how he runs the pick and roll and how he leads the team. But the most important thing was the way he prepares for games. He’s one hour and 15 minutes early for practice taking treatments, taking shots and getting ready for every practice and game.
SLAM: So are you going to bolt after the season is up?
GD: I like Houston. I like the weather and the people are nice. It’s different than Phoenix. It’s so big that I haven’t had time to really explore the city yet. But I’m gonna explore the city when the season is over.