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Phoenix Suns Goran Dragic highly frustrated with team's lack of consistent effort

The Phoenix Suns starting point guard is frustrated with a lot of different things lately, but one overriding frustration is the team's lack of consistent effort from game to game.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Goran Dragic is quite frustrated. His team has lost by a combined 59 points in the last two games and nearly set a record for fewest points in a single game for the franchise last night (68 points in 1981 was a team low).

He has never been on a losing team in the NBA before, and certainly has never been the sole go-to guy for this many games in a row. Dragic is more of a score-first point guard who's at his best when attacking the defense than a pure playmaker on the perimeter.

But he is the best offensive option that the Suns have. And he is having a very good season, despite the chaos and outsized expectations on him. Dragic is one of only EIGHT players in the entire NBA this season to produce at least 14 points, 6.3 assists, 1 steal and 2.8 rebounds per game. Among those eight, Dragic plays the fewest minutes per game (32.3), attempts the fewest field goals and commits the second-fewest turnovers.

Sure there are better specialists at every one of those categories. But only Jrue Holiday, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry, Jameer Nelson and Chris Paul approximate or exceed Goran Dragic's total production per game. That's it.

In short, Goran Dragic plays hard and is one of the best all-around guards in the NBA.

But he is not an all-star guard, and he is getting very frustrated at having to be that guy in order for the team to win any games. He almost always keeps a positive spin on his comments. Almost always. Last night was the biggest exception yet.

"We didn't know what we were doing defensively, offensively," he said in his opening statement at the post game press conference. "Everybody was, I don't know, on All-Star break. I don't know. It was just a tough game."

Asked about scoring only 9 points in the last 7 quarters against OKC after putting up 16 in the first quarter on Friday night, Dragic could not hold back.

"The pick and roll is not there. I just try to break the defense but there's always two guys on me. The big guy is standing in front and the point guard is coming behind. The only thing I can do in that position is pass the ball. I am not going to force anything if I don't have a clear shot."

Of course, breaking the defense down is as incumbent on Dragic as it is on anyone else. He is the guy with the ball, and it's clear he is passing off too early in the shot clock at times. Steve Nash would pound the ball until the play developed, where Dragic is more impatient. He wants movement and action.

Yet it's also clear that his teammates are no longer on the same page, if they ever were this season. There is very little movement amongst the other four players when Dragic starts the play at the top of the key. Even when he picks up the dribble -- which he shouldn't -- they often have to be cajoled to come help him (except for Beasley, who is always more than willing to take the ball).

With as much effort as Dragic puts into defending the opposing team's point guard, he cannot carry the team offensively as well. And as the game goes on, the offensive execution gets sloppier and sloppier.

And that's where Dragic's frustration mounts. Asked if he still felt that not all guys were trying at any given time, Dragic replied that he still feels the same.

"We have a team that some nights they bring it, they play hard," he said after the second straight blowout. "And then we get lost for 3-4 games."

Dragic did not mention any particular names, but he clearly was talking about a few players on the team. His comments were sweeping.

"I was talking to Lindsey. All the players are saying we got 30 games left. Everybody is saying "next year we are going to make the playoffs". If we shut down now then we cannot improve ourselves and try to be better next season. We cannot just click and come back next season and start playing better. We have to start now."

Asked about Dragic's comments, center Marcin Gortat paused for a full five seconds (the first time I have ever seen that) as he gazed across the locker room at his point guard. Then he smiled and refused to comment. "I'm not going to answer that," he said.

But Gortat did spend some time talking about the matter.

"I don't think we fight and compete the way the coaches want us to compete," he said. "I have been on winning teams and [Shannon Brown] knows what it takes to win two championships. I think we see things different than some other guys. Something's gotta change. You gotta come ready to play. If you really care, you've got to bring your best."

Gortat does believe the team is heading the right way, though. "Our practice change and the culture is slowly, slowly changing. We have a little bit more discipline. I would say we are going in a better direction definitely. Its just not going to change in a week or two or a month. Sometimes it takes years."

Dragic cares about this season and making progress. He is not going to give up no matter what happens.

"It's frustrating, but I'm not the guy that's just going to surrender," he said. "Where I come from, my family went through a lot. We have war. My father was always teaching me no matter how bad the situation you have to stay positive, you have to battle until the end. Even if the percentage is really low.

"And I am still going to fight until the end of the season. That's the only thing I can do. Right now I'm just asking everybody do the same thing. Players, coaching staff, try to get ourselves in better position."

Now before you go off on Dragic for being a bad team player, remember that he is always putting out his best effort and has never before been a guy to throw teammates under the bus.He has always been a model citizen on the Suns and the Rockets.

But when you're the captain of a "sinking ship" and your team is not putting out the same effort every night, it can get really frustrating.

Still, Dragic is wrong to throw teammates under the bus at any time. Steve Nash never does tha... oh wait, never mind. He threw Dwight Howard under the bus just last week.

I digress. Dragic should not let his frustrations out to the media. It cannot help the locker room when your best player is blaming others for failures.

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