It looks like Goran Dragic is done disrespecting Toronto.
After getting off on the wrong foot with the Toronto Raptors faithful, Dragic has done his best to repent with sincere apologies. Now, he's showing respect to franchise legend Kyle Lowry by avoiding his iconic No. 7 — even though Dragic wore that number for seven seasons with the Miami Heat — opting instead for the No. 1 he wore with the Phoenix Suns from 2013-2015.
“I’ve been in this league a long time and Kyle won a championship in Toronto, I believe that his jersey will probably be in the rafters," said Dragic at Raptors media day on Monday. "That’s why I chose No. 1.”
“I’ve been in this league a long time and Kyle won a championship in Toronto. I believe that his jersey will probably be in the rafters. That’s why I chose No. 1.”
Dragic on not wearing #7 in Toronto pic.twitter.com/3m2XehiS4K
— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) September 27, 2021
The guard was acquired along with Precious Achiuwa for Lowry in a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat. Before Dragic could even step on the court in a Raptors uniform, however, he was already giving himself a bad name with the team's faithful for telling Slovenian media Toronto was not his "preferred destination" and that he had "higher ambitions."
He's tried to make things right ever since, which includes picking a different jersey number than the one he had in Miami.
Lowry, on the other hand, doesn't feel the need to return the favour — he happily slapped Dragic's Heat No. 7 on the back of his new jersey... awkward.
Dragic seconded his apology to Raptors fans at media day on Monday and reminisced on some epic playoff moments against Toronto, including Lowry's stunning half-court buzzer-beater in Game 1 of the East Semis in 2016.
“It’s always tough to play here, they’re always tough," said Dragic about the city. "The fans are awesome, it’s great to be in Toronto."
Not only is Dragic excited to be here, he's also coming in with a purpose. The 35-year-old said he wants to have the same effect on young players that Steve Nash did for him early in his career with Phoenix.
Talk about setting the bar high.
Dragic was also quick to praise Raptors No. 4 overall draft pick Scottie Barnes when queried about young players that have impressed him.
"He's hilarious, he's so funny. Good kid, works hard," said Dragic. "You're gonna see him be first in the gym, last to go out, he's got a personality that's unique and I really like him.
"He's got a bright future, I can already see that."
Beyond mentorship, Dragic, a 2018 All-Star, should provide a needed boost on the court as a quality shooter and playmaker. Last season, the point guard averaged 13.4 points and 4.4 assists with the Heat while mostly coming off the bench, something he should replicate for a Raptors team that needs all the help it can get at the guard position post-Lowry.
He's also a valuable trade asset. The Raptors already did well salvaging the young and athletic Achiuwa for Lowry, who was inevitably leaving town, and could see more returns if the front office flips Dragic's expiring $18 million contract for more assets.
Or maybe he stays the whole year and helps the Raptors through the play-in and into the playoffs while assisting in the development of young talents like Malachi Flynn and Barnes.
Either way, there are many positives to take away from Dragic being in Toronto despite the rocky start.
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