Toronto Star

Raptors: Dragic arrives in Toronto humble and ready to help

- DOUG SMITH SPORTS REPORTER

In answer to the first question he faced on media day as a Raptor, Goran Dragic invoked the name Steve Nash, which surely endeared him to some segment of basketball fans in the country.

A few minutes later, Dragic wanted to assure fans he never considered wearing his familiar No. 7 in Toronto because it will probably be hanging from the rafters of the arena one day as an homage to his pal, Kyle Lowry.

And if that didn’t take some of the sting away from any ill feelings fans might have toward him after comments, perhaps taken out of context, about his willingnes­s to play in Toronto, those were met head-on and put to rest.

“You know, it came out wrong. I did apologize and I want to apologize right now, too,” Dragic said Monday at Scotiabank Arena. “It was not my intention.

“But you know, the organizati­on and the players, they welcomed (me). It was really nice; all the guys are nice. They want me, you know, to feel comfortabl­e and I do feel comfortabl­e here, for the past two weeks.”

What role will ultimately emerge for the 35-year-old guard, who is about to begin his 14th NBA season, will become clear over the next week of training camp and the rest of the month in exhibition games. But even on a team with a veteran starter and borderline allstar in Fred VanVleet, and a point guard in waiting in Malachi Flynn, it’d be foolish not to see the six-foot-three Dragic as an asset to be used.

Whether that’s for the entire season or up until the NBA trade deadline really doesn’t matter. He’s here, he wants to play, he can play and he should play.

“He’s been working out with our guys, being a mentor, showing that he can still play,” general manager Bobby Webster said of Dragic . “He is one of the elder statesmen, but he can still play and I think he can still lead, and we’ll need a little bit of that this year.”

The most impressive part of Dragic ’s media session was the maturity with which he’s handling his situation. The native of Slovenia remains competitiv­e and quite capable of handling the rigours of the NBA, but his role here is as much mentor as it is contributo­r and he’s obviously at peace with that.

“I’m a profession­al, playing this league for 14 years, so I love basketball. I’m going to do everything that it takes to … be part of this team and to help young, young, young players to grow,” he said. “I think that’s the most important thing, at this time for me in my career, to help young players to overcome all the difficulti­es that they’re going to have during the season, and to be there for them.”

And where did he learn that? As a kid in Phoenix watching and learning from Nash, the best player Canada has ever produced.

“At that time, I still didn’t understand how to take care of yourself, your body and eat healthy and those things,” he said. “And of course on the floor to be vocal and to talk to the guys, even if it’s a bad play or something, to encourage the guys.

“When it’s the hardest moment of the season or the game, to step forward and to be vocal and to show them that it’s just basketball, and that everybody can do everything. But yeah, the most important thing is just to be an example for those young guys and to be a leader.”

 ?? ?? Goran Dragic plans to help his younger teammates the way Steve Nash once helped him.
Goran Dragic plans to help his younger teammates the way Steve Nash once helped him.

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