Today was the first time that the Phoenix Suns have held a team practice since the 2015 NBA All-Star Break, and more importantly, since the trade winds began to swirl involving key players such as Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green, Isaiah Thomas, and now, the current face of the franchise, Goran Dragic.
As always, media availability is only granted after the conclusion of practice, since the team no doubt wants to keep specific plays and communications out of, and away from the public eye. However, the Suns' coaches and players are usually available to talk with the media directly following practice, and the topic on everybody's mind was of course, the multitude of trade rumors that are currently enveloping the team.
Today's media session was jam-packed with more reporters than any game I've been to this season, or any other event, for that matter. The media were all told to wait in a back supply room instead of the usual, comfy media room we usually gather in before hand.
It was apparent that this was going to be a very different post-practice interview session even from the onset.
Finally, we were called out of the supply room and congregated in the hallway when Goran Dragic himself made his way into the fray. The gigantic media scrum quickly surrounded him and began firing off questions about the rumors that have been circulating over the past couple of days.
While I expected to hear some form of acknowledgement from Dragic, what he admitted was almost shocking. (Full video here).
"I've already made up my mind", Dragic admitted when asked if there was anything the Suns could do to change his mind and get him to stay in Phoenix. "For two years in a row I've been in the same spot, and I've played hard, but every year is the same. I'll stand by my actions."
Dragic was asked at what point he reached this conclusion about wanting out of Phoenix. "It's been going on all season. It's just different...standing in the corner, it's not my game." "I see that we are not going in the right direction, and that's why I tried to take action."
Goran was also asked about what fit would be the right fit for him. "To be a point guard again, like I was in the past, and all my life. To be a point guard to run the team, to have the ball in my hands and try to make plays for others. That's who I am. That's why I'm not happy."
One of the more interesting responses was when Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic asked Dragic if it was fair to say that his trust of the organization isn't the same as it has been in the past, and whether he felt misled. "Yeah. I don't trust (the Suns front office) anymore." Dragic continued, "It's happened too many times, two or three times. They give promises but you know, (shakes head)."
But Goran was also sure to express his gratitude for all of the good years he spent on the team, as well as his admiration for the city and the Suns' fans. "It's hard, but at the same time I wish them all the best. I'll always have good memories of Phoenix fans, and I love the city, but it's at the point of my career when it's better for me and my family to move on."
This was a totally different Goran Dragic than I have been used to seeing, hearing, and talking to after practices and games. Something has definitely changed. And while he attempted to answer all of the questions asked of him honestly, I still had to wonder if we were hearing his agent speak through him.
There had been signs that Dragic wasn't happy with his role at times, or possibly the direction of the team. But nothing that seemed irreparable as it did today. Maybe he just reached his breaking point and is fed up?
We don't know all of what's happened, or what's been said behind closed doors between Goran and the Suns organization. But whatever it was has certainly had a very negative impact that has escalated much quicker than anyone anticipated.
Neither Ryan McDonough, nor Lon Babby was available to talk with the media following today's practice. One can only assume they are working the phones and trying diligently to put together a trade that makes sense.
That left Suns coach Jeff Hornacek to face the brunt of the media's questions today. Here's what he had to say about all of the drama...and a little actual practice related information as well.
One of the first questions Hornacek was asked was of course about the Dragic trade rumors, and Goran voicing his displeasure with his role on the Suns. Specifically, he was asked if there was any indication that Goran was unhappy before now.
"Yeah, It's obvious with the guards that he may be unhappy with it. It's just part of adjusting to things. Was it ideal? No. Would it have gotten back to where it was last year? Maybe. But again, there's no reason to talk about it now until after the trade deadline tomorrow."
When Hornacek was asked if Dragic feeling that he's been standing in the corner all of the time was exaggerated, Hornacek responded, "If that's what he feels, that's what he feels. We swing the ball from side to side, and he's gotten the ball on the swing, but everyone has their perception of what's happening out there. Is it what it was last year? No. But we're four bounces, or four plays away from being 33-21, so it is what it is."
In other news, Hornacek was also asked about how Alex Len was feeling now after recovering from an ankle injury, to which he responded, "He'll be fine. He went through some practice today, probably more than he should have. He's a tough kid where Aaron (Nelson) said to have him go up and down the court two or three times, then have him sit for a bit. A couple of times I forgot to get him out and he told me, 'I'm good, I'm good'. I think he feels good and they did a lot of strengthening on it over the break, so I expect he'll be fine".
Suns rookie point guard Tyler Ennis was the only other player who briefly stopped by the media to answer some questions. Ennis was asked about how the news of Dragic requesting a trade affected his preparation. "Since the start of the year, one of the things I've focused on is staying ready, and just working as hard as I can". "However things play out, I'm just going to be ready to play if they call my name."
Interestingly enough, Tyler Ennis may just be the Suns only true point guard. And while the Suns have been using their dynamic trio in primarily a score-first role, things could certainly change with Dragic's departure.
While it seems unlikely that Phoenix would decide to give Dragic's minutes to Ennis, If Isaiah Thomas is also dealt, there's a very good chance he could see significant time on the court.
Time will tell.
One thing's for certain, the make-up of this Suns' team is changing. I fully expect Ryan McDonough to execute a trade of some sort at least involving Dragic, before some time tomorrow. However, Goran could be one of a number of current Suns leaving by that time, with Isaiah Thomas, Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee, and of course, Zoran Dragic all rumored to be on the trade block now as well.
Buckle up Suns' fans.