The Suns have looked like a team that could lose all on its own this season without a need to tank for draft position. The move to hold Goran Dragic out of Wednesday night’s loss at Utah and Thursday night’s home game against Sacramento for rest was the first indication that the Suns might be tanking because of the timing. As the Suns held out their top player without injury, Utah remains one game behind the eighth-place Los Angeles Lakers, who must turn over a draft lottery pick to the Suns if they miss the playoffs. Phoenix gets Miami’s pick at No. 30 if the Lakers do make the playoffs. Dragic, who leads the Suns with 14.4 points and 7.2 assists per game, was told Tuesday night that he would not play Wednesday but did not know if he was playing Thursday night. Suns interim coach Lindsey Hunter said Dragic would not play either night to rest him, provide opportunities for rookies Kendall Marshall and Diante Garrett and prepare Dragic for his summer with Slovenia in the European Championship. “If you ask me personally, I would play,” Dragic said. “That's why they make the decision. “I can play. I’m in great shape. There’s always pain and bruises but you can always play through that.” Of the timing with a game at Utah, Hunter said, “That’s not my concern.” “If you’ve seen him after games, you see how he looks like he’s been boxing,” Hunter said. “He’s been through a lot this year, little nicks and bruises, but he just fights through it so I think it’s good for him. “We know we’re not making the playoffs and he’s logged a lot of minutes and played phenomenal for us. He’s going to have a long summer playing ball so he has a lot to do. We’re aware of that and his well-being. We don’t want him to totally be run down.” Dragic has played in 69 of 71 games this season and averaged a team-high 33.0 minutes, which ranks 53rd in the NBA. He was coming off arguably his career’s finest game with 31 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds against Brooklyn. No NBA player has posted that stat line this season. Dragic does not even ask to exit games, especially since he has led the NBA in assists after the All-Star break. “I don’t want to come out of games because I worked all my life to enjoy those minutes I have and play as hard as possible. I don’t see a reason and I’m in good shape so I can play.” On the flip side, center Jermaine O’Neal was not expected to play Wednesday because of a calf strain but returned after missing two games.
Phoenix Suns coach Lindsey Hunter opts to give Goran Dragic break
Arizona Republic | Mar 28