Brothers Goran and Zoran Dragic Share Bond on and off Court with the Suns

Jared Zwerling@JaredZwerlingNBA Senior WriterJanuary 2, 2015

B/R

On a recent Friday night in New York City, Bleacher Report met up with brothers Goran, 28, and Zoran Dragic, 25, of the Phoenix Suns at Dave & Buster's arcade and restaurant in Times Square. What unfolded was an evening of spirited conversation, friendly competition—including Pop-A-Shot and car racing games—and candid perspective on life and basketball, from Slovenia to the NBA through the eyes of Gogi and Zoki (their family nicknames):

Bleacher Report: What's the competition like between you two?

Zoran Dragic: We are not playing basketball against each other in the NBA, but it's huge. When we were younger, we never finished the game at the end because we're so competitive.

Goran Dragic: We still play different sports. Table tennis is kind of huge in the past two, three years. And I'm still the champion [laughs]. We've got a ping-pong table back home back in Slovenia. I always smash the ball.

B/R: What kinds of basketball games do you play together?

GD: Sometimes we play one-on-one, but we play three-on-three more outside every summer.

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ZD: We tried to play a little bit on the national team after practice, but we didn't want to go head-to-head so much because when we start, the first two, three points it's funny, but then at four, five, six points it's really physical and everything. We say, "Stop!" so somebody is not going to be injured [laughs].

B/R: Do you talk trash to each other?

GD: All the time, in Slovenian. I'd say, "Brick," if he shoots [laughs].

ZD: Or, "You can't guard me," or something like that.

GD: He's always made fun that I'm soft and he's tough, but that's not true. He's a really dirty player. I have a funny story: It was last summer. We invited some friends and my father was playing with us, so we played three-on-three. Me and Zoki were really banging each other and my father was so pissed that he stopped playing. He just walked out of the gym and he said, "I'm not playing games with you guys [laughs]."

B/R: What do you think is your all-time record head-to-head?

GD: I think I lead him only because I'm older. When he was younger, I was a little stronger than him, so if you count those games I'm ahead a little bit. But now, it's tough. If I'm honest, if we played one-on-one—

ZD: You'll lose [laughs].

GD: He would lock me up, only because he's a dirty player.   

ZD: We need the ref. If I'm honest, I would probably lose every game three years in a row back in the day because I didn't shoot the ball well. But the last two, three years, I've really shot the ball well, so now it's more competitive.

B/R: How did you both become lefties?

GD: It's something about our family. Our grandfather is lefty, our mom is lefty.

ZD: But back in the day in Yugoslavia, she needed to learn to write with her right hand, and now she can write with both hands.

GD: Maybe it's something in the food [laughs]. No, seriously. Look, our national team, out of 12 players, eight players are lefty.

ZD: It's tough to guard.

B/R: Goran, you're known for your creative ball fakes while attacking the basket. So for both of you, what's your best one?

ZD: My best fake is when I pump to the right and I go left and behind my back.

GD: I've been trying to get him to do a between-the-legs move for the last five years. He never does it.

ZD: I don't need it [laughs]. I just go left or behind the back, or spin or crossover. But in the last two years, I've been working on between the legs.

GD: I like to play dynamic, fast basketball, so most of the time if I'm on a fast break, the Eurostep is my thing. But my favorite move is behind the back with the ball. I do a lot of fakes when I'm driving through the lane and try to pump fake a lot of times, because big guys think I'm going to lay it up. The step-back is also one of my favorites in the last two years. If I'm honest, when I played in Europe I was only a driver. I couldn't shoot the ball because it was so easy for me to get to the basket [laughs].

ZD: I used to call him "Brick [laughs]." You cannot play here if you don't have a mid-range game.

B/R: Goran, who's the hardest and easiest player to finish over in the NBA?

GD: Dwight Howard is the hardest because he's so strong and athletic. Roy Hibbert is the easiest for me. Everyone says he's a great defender, but he doesn't jump very high. You just need to lean into him and you can finish over him, or get the foul.

B/R: What's a hidden talent you both have?

ZD: I can dance a little bit, but not like a professional [laughs]. I had to dance when we were in training camp, in front of the whole arena during open practice. It was some really bad song, but I needed to do something, and I just did this electric move, the robot [he moves his arms up and down like a wave].

GD: When I was a kid, I drew a lot with paint. That was my thing. Now, not so much anymore. Everything is around sports—table tennis, basketball, soccer, baseball.

ZD: I do a bunch of stuff—sports, rafting and that kind of stuff; I like to go to the mountains and explore. Back home [in Slovenia], there's climbing, hiking and canoeing. I put a wetsuit on to—[he asks Goran in Slovenian how to describe it in English]

GD: Let me explain. Back home in Slovenia in the mountains, you put this suit on and there's, like, a natural slide, and then you fall down in the river. He likes to do adrenaline-type things.

B/R: Zoran, you mentioned your rookie hazing with the dancing. Goran, what was yours?

PHOENIX - OCTOBER 7: Goran Dragic #2 passes around Shaquille O'Neal #32 of the Phoenix Suns during NBA TV's Real Training Camp visit to the Phoenix Suns on October 7, 2008, at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowled
Barry Gossage/Getty Images

GD: My rookie year, I had Shaq on my team, Amar'e Stoudemire, Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Jason Richardson, all those vets. The only guy who made me do a lot of things was Shaq, and I always needed to bring doughnuts for every home game. And the funny thing is, most of the team always ate healthy. Shaq was the only guy who was eating them.

B/R: You both also have a love for car racing. Tell me about that.

GD: Our father is a driving instructor, so Zoki and I had already driven a car by the time we were in middle school. Back in Europe [during driving lessons], you have pedals on both sides—the driver's side and the passenger's side—so [the instructor] can control the car. When we were kids, we also had a motorcycle our father had, so we were driving [plenty] at 12, 13.

ZD: I remember once, [my father] let me drive alone in the car in a big parking lot and he told me, "Do not put in second gear!" I was in first and I heard the engine was getting louder, and I was like, "Man, come on, I need second!" And he started running to the car and opened the door and jumped inside, "What did I tell you, man [laughs]?"

GD: We were crazy a little bit.

B/R: Have you ever raced against each other?

GD: We go-kart, but on the real streets, no. When we were like seven, eight years old, my father's boss was a sponsor for race cars, and we went to see a race. We were inside the pit; it was crazy.

ZD: I like Formula One.

GD: I would like to see Formula One, but with our schedule it's tough. I liked Michael Schumacher. For me, NASCAR is a boring circuit. It needs to be a little bit more exciting.

ZD: I want to go to see NASCAR. It looks boring on TV, but probably live it's not. I know it's very popular here.

B/R: What's each of your dream cars?

ZD: I would like to buy an Audi A8. Goran has a pretty Mercedes, and I've told him, "If you're going to sell your car, sell it to me [laughs]!"

GD: I said, "No [laughs]!" I've got a Mercedes C63 AMG, two door. It's dark red with black rims.

B/R: Are you guys roommates in Phoenix?

ZD: He kicked me out [laughs]. I'm, like, 10 minutes from him. I live in a better area [laughs].

GD: You know what the problem is? I've got a baby, a one-year-old. His name is Mateo. I already bought that small basketball hoop, and I already taught him how to play [he shows a video on his iPhone of Mateo dunking in a diaper].

ZD: We go to the zoo with Mateo, we like to watch movies. I have my wife, too, and she just arrived [from Slovenia].

Zoran, 25, and Goran, 28, are among the seven current sets of brothers in the NBA. The others are the Gasols, Holidays, Lopezes, Morrises, Plumlees and Zellers.
Zoran, 25, and Goran, 28, are among the seven current sets of brothers in the NBA. The others are the Gasols, Holidays, Lopezes, Morrises, Plumlees and Zellers.Barry Gossage/Getty Images

B/R: Have you had a shooting competition yet with Jeff Hornacek?

GD: We've had a couple, and sometimes I win, sometimes he wins. [Hornacek] looks good because he was one of the best 2-guards in the league. I still remember the first week when he came to the Suns and we had practice. He just came dressed in shorts and he said, "Let's play some games." And me, Zoki and Jeff played money in the bank, like the game around the world.

ZD: Jeff was swish, swish. He's helping me work on the three-point line, to put a little bit of air under the ball.

B/R: Do you remember watching those Utah Jazz-Chicago Bulls Finals games?

GD: Yeah. We still make fun of Coach, like how [Michael] Jordan busted his ass. We give him a hard time a little bit, but he's such a great guy. He's always teasing guys, and you know he still can shoot. For me, the most fascinating thing about him is when he's not warmed up, he just walks in the gym and he's shooting, like, five threes in a row.

On working with Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, Goran said he has given him "that confidence, [that] freedom, and when you have freedom and the coach allows you to be yourself, then it's just like walking in the park...You want to do everything for that coach."
On working with Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, Goran said he has given him "that confidence, [that] freedom, and when you have freedom and the coach allows you to be yourself, then it's just like walking in the park...You want to do everything for that coach."Rocky Widner/Getty Images

B/R: Goran, how are you helping your brother with his NBA transition?

GD: The first thing I told him—Steve Nash gave me the same advice—is just be patient. I told him, "I know it's hard because you're not playing, but you need to work hard on the practice court, especially because we don't have a lot of practices." When that opportunity is going to come, he needs to take advantage of that. I think he had a harder path than me to the NBA because of his coaches in Europe. 

ZD: It's a transition. When I came here, I said, "I'm going to get at least five or 10 minutes per game," but this has not happened. But I talk with Goran and he gives me big goals. I'm trying to grow in the same path like him, but I want to have my own success. Some guys were writing that I signed here because my brother is here, but that's not true. I had a couple other offers. When I finally play, I'm going to give everything I've got. I'm going to run, run, and I'm going to feel like I smoked cigarettes all my life, like, "I cannot breathe [laughs]!"

Jared Zwerling covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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