Bulls’ Goran Dragić thankful for Steve Nash’s Hall of Fame lessons

How Dragić’s knowledge from Nash has come full circle originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

When Goran Dragić arrived at Phoenix Suns training camp as a rookie and second-round pick in 2008, he immediately glimpsed greatness.

In the locker room stood hard-to-miss Shaquille O’Neal, a future Hall of Famer. And Grant Hill, another player eventually headed to enshrinement in Springfield, Mass. And, even if he only stood 6-foot-3, perhaps the most daunting figure of all – and another future Hall of Famer – in Steve Nash.

“It was an amazing experience,” Dragić said after Chicago Bulls practice on Monday. “At the same time, it was terrifying the first couple days.”

That’s because Nash, a two-time NBA most valuable player, embodied everything the unproven Dragić longed to be.

Luckily for Dragić, it turned out Nash wasn’t just a stone-cold competitor. He was a welcoming teammate as well.

“Steve helped me so much in my career,” Dragić said. “Just how to be a professional, how to eat healthy, work ethic and of course pick-and-roll. That was his main thing. I was happy that I had that opportunity to learn from him.

“But if I’m honest, it was a lot of pressure too. When you’re a backup point guard to one of the greats and he’s leading the team, you come in and that level has to be the same. That’s hard to achieve, especially at a young age. That was something especially at the beginning that I struggled with. But when I figured out that I’m not Steve Nash and I just need to be me, then it became much easier. “

Helping Dragić throughout that process? None other than Nash, who Dragić and the Bulls face Tuesday night in their matchup with Brooklyn Nets, which Nash has coached since the 2021-22 season.

“I always played pick-and-roll before I came to the NBA,” Dragić said. “But Steve showed me how to read situations, those dribble throughs. Usually point guards pick up the dribble. But he put so much pressure on the pocket. He was always manipulating the pick-and-roll. That is something that is really unique. “

The funny thing is, the pupil has become the teacher. And while Dragić obviously hasn’t reached the Hall of Fame heights that Nash did, he does own a Most Improved Player award and one All-Star and All-NBA designation during his 15-year run.

These accomplishments, not to mention his pick-and-roll prowess and constant probing of and pressure on the defense, are why teammates ranging from Ayo Dosunmu to Coby White now seek his advice.

“That comes with experience,” Dragić said. “You feel more comfortable in tighter spaces with more defenders. The reading of the game is easier. You know where the help is going to come or who is going to be open. “

When the San Antonio Spurs acquired and waived Dragić last February, the veteran point guard didn’t lack for suitors. For Dragić, where he signed to finish last season proved an easy decision.

“I said to myself, ‘I believe in karma.’ Steve did so much for my career. So I wanted to give something back to try to help him. That’s why I decided to go to Brooklyn, ”Dragić said. “Of course we didn’t have the season we wanted. It was a tough situation. But I don’t regret it at all. He’s such a great human being. I’m always going to be grateful to him. “

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