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Goran Dragic talks about Phoenix Suns loyalty, constant changes, and wishes them the best

Just like so many once-loyal Phoenix Suns have said over the past decade after they leave the Valley in a surprising exit, Goran Dragic laments the circumstances of his exit and wishes the Suns all the best as he tries to make playoff memories with his new team.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday night, your friendly neighborhood Slovenian point guard returns to the Valley to play some NBA basketball in front of 18,000 (or so) Suns fans.

Yay, right?

Not so fast. This time, Goran Dragic is with the Miami Heat, who like San Antonio "are really loyal when they find something", rather than with the Suns who are "always changing something", according to Dragic who spoke to Yahoo! Sports about his upcoming opponent this week.

Dragic survived the 25-57 season three ago as the Suns starting point guard. Now, he sees that the Suns are going through something similarly bad three years later.

"I already went through the season with only [25] wins," Dragic said to Yahoo!, "and it's not pretty. Most of the guys, we're really competitive and you want to win a lot of games. And when you get to that mix where you don't win [in] like 10 games in a row, that's really tough. That's really tough. Everything is worse. In your personal life. Everything. I always say I'm hurting sometimes, have a lot of injuries. But if you win a game, I feel great. But if you lose the game, those injuries, they come up. I don't know how to explain it, winning is such a unique thing."

Dragic went from struggling starting point guard to All-NBA player in two short seasons in his second stint with the Suns, all the while carrying the mantle of the fans' favorite player and boasting of his love for Phoenix.

But two months after being named the league Most Improved Player for 2013-14, the Suns spent their free agent money on another starting caliber point guard. Four months later, they gave big money to the other starting caliber point guard Dragic had already split his playmaking duties with.

And eight months later, Dragic was demanding a trade.

"Everybody expected that we're going to get some big guys that we thought we needed, but they did another move, they bring in a point guard and it was tough," Dragic told Yahoo.

When the Suns came up short on their efforts to lure big-name All-Stars to supplement the starless Suns, they surprised everyone by turning their attention to Isaiah Thomas. One theory was that, since Bledsoe had missed half the previous season, they wanted to triple-down on their starting guard rotation to absorb injury. Another theory was that Thomas was insurance against an ugly divorce from Bledsoe, who was a summer-long holdout and could potentially have been traded if a contract couldn't be worked out.

But none of that happened, and the Suns went into the 2014-15 season with their three best players being ball-dominant point guards. Dragic was frustrated from day one, and even moreso when training camp opened with all three healthy, signed and ready to go.

The big difference between Dragic and the other two was that Dragic was the only one without a long-term contract to make him feel secure. And, he was the one asked to spend the most time off the ball while the other two took turns bringing it up the court.

"I was a little bit frustrated," Dragic told Yahoo! "It was tough, especially for me, because I was playing off the ball all the time, and I was guarding [small forwards]. That was tough for me, but they did what they did."

Dragic was definitely marginalized in that first half-season, in favor of Eric Bledsoe as the primary point guard and Isaiah Thomas as the ball-loving backup. When either of the other two were on the floor, Dragic was a secondary option.

The Suns made promises to Dragic that the playing time would get cleared up by the trade deadline, but Dragic had already decided that since they so easily spent more than $100 million on point guards that summer he wasn't in the Suns long term plans.

Rumor has it that Dragic's agent told Robert Sarver long before the trade deadline that he was going to leave in free agency that summer to join a team that would be loyal to him and make him their full time point guard for the life of his new contract. Reportedly, Sarver insisted he wanted Dragic to stay in Phoenix and that the Suns loved him, but Dragic's mind was already made up.

"I always believe when you find some pieces that you leave those pieces [alone]," Dragic told Yahoo!  "But then you upgrade the other positions. Like San Antonio is doing. They always have the Big Three, but then it's a good team. They always find another player at another position, so they're always good. But that's not my call. I was just there to play basketball. I tried to do my job."

Timing that season was awful, and can only be blamed on the front office. Their intentions were clear, to keep a two-point guard offense running long term with Dragic as one of those guards, but the execution was a dumpster fire. Before anyone knew what had happened, the team was blown up.

Dragic was the biggest bridge the Suns burned in the wake of the surprisingly successful 48-34 campaign in 2013-14. But he's not the only bridge that was burned.

They've since been blasted on the 'loyalty' front recently by a handful of outgoing players like Channing Frye, Marcus Morris, Isaiah Thomas (who really WAS traded as the Suns had promised and already committed to) as well as Markieff Morris who still resides in a Suns uniform for the time being.

But really, the comps to San Antonio and Miami are a bit flimsy. San Antonio kept the core of their championship team together - Duncan, Ginobili and Parker - but have regularly swapped out non-stars on an annual basis. Miami kept championship-winning MVP Dwyane Wade, but have regularly swapped out everything else in search of new stars to put around him. Of course you keep guys who won you championships.

But Dragic is talking about something much bigger than him. And much more pervasive than the 48-34 team. The reason he couldn't trust the Suns to make him happy and surround him with winning players was because the Suns have not shown long-term loyalty to anyone in the past decade.

Bryan Colangelo. Jerry Colangelo. Rick Welts. Mike D'Antoni. Steve Kerr. Alvin Gentry. Shawn Marion. Boris Diaw. Raja Bell. Leandro Barbosa. Grant Hill. Steve Nash. Amare Stoudemire. Channing Frye. Goran Dragic. And a host of coaches, videographers, assistant GMs and other front office folks.

All were loyal and committed to the Suns, yet all were out the door at the first sign of discord. Whether it was contract demands, expanse of decision-making power, declining production, or some combination of all three, they left the organization before they thought maybe their time should have been up.

They all said some variation of the same thing in hindsight when asked about their time in Phoenix. They loved it in Phoenix. They wished they could have stayed longer. They lamented leaving under the circumstances they did. And they have very fond memories nonetheless.

Sure, many left of their own accord. Few were jettisoned. Most had lesser roles, lesser success or both in their subsequent NBA stops.

Yet most of the ones mentioned above have tasted great playoff or international success even if their role was lessened. Jerry has gold medals with Team USA. Kerr, Gentry, Marion, Diaw and Barbosa all have championship rings to take with them into retirement.

"I wish them all the best," Dragic told Yahoo. "I still remember that year with the Suns, when we made the [conference finals in 2010]. That was one of the best moments in my career and I want to feel that again, to be in the playoffs and to be a contender."

Dragic has moved on to Miami if in a diminished role (11 points, 6 assists per game). He will have a great time there, be in their lineup as they get into the playoffs, and get another chance to be a hero. And maybe join the ranks of former Suns who got a ring somewhere else.

Meantime, the Suns are going through another rebuilding effort and the consecutive non-playoff season count is about to reach six straight.

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