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Stein: Nets met with Goran Dragic Friday; Steve Nash leading recruiting effort

Portland Trail Blazers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Goran Dragic has begun meeting with NBA teams and according to Marc Stein, the Nets admittedly long shot effort is being led by the man who Dragic has called his mentor, Steve Nash. The two met Friday, per Stein.

After securing his release from San Antonio early in the week, Goran Dragić immediately became the darling of the buyout market. Word is Dragić was determined to spend at least a week evaluating the teams chasing him the hardest (Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Chicago, Golden State and the LA Clippers) and one source close to the process described as him as “really open-minded” to the pitches he’s getting. The Bucks notably have a significant backcourt role to offer, on top of their proven championship stock, while the Nets have Coach Steve Nash, who mentored Dragić in Phoenix when the Slovenian broke into the NBA, entrenched as their lead recruiter.

League sources say Nash registered key aspects of the Nets’ bid to Dragić on Friday as Brooklyn also maintains hope that Kyrie Irving will be more available for the stretch run if the vaccine mandate that has ruled him out of home games all season is finally lifted in New York City.

Having Nash lead the charge is not surprising. The two were in Phoenix together for three seasons —- 190 games — between 2008 and 2011 when Nash was the Suns starter and the Slovenian point guard his back-up.

Dragic, 35, has only played five games this season all for the Raptors. He had been traded from the Heat to the Raptors last August but Toronto announced via Twitter in late November that he was “taking some time away from the team” to manage a personal matter.” He has since lived in south Florida, his off-season home. He attended the Nets-Heat game on February 12.

A year ago, Dragic played 50 games for the Heat, averaging 13.4 points and 4.4 assists on shooting splits of 43/37/83 in primarily a back-up role. The 6’3” guard has career averages of 13.9 and 4.8. He is a former All-Star (2018), All-NBA player (2014) and Most Improved Player (2014). Five years ago, he and Luka Doncic led Slovenia to its first Eurobasket championship. Dragic was named the tournament MVP.

The Bucks are generally conceded to be the front-runner for his services because they’re the defending champions and are likely to give him more playing time having lost Pat Connaughton to injury and traded Dante DeVincenzo. Milwaukee recently added former Nets DeAndre’ Bembry to their roster. As Stein noted, the Nets are also in need of backcourt back-ups with James Harden traded and Irving still on a part-time basis, unable to play at home because he’s unvaccinated. Cam Thomas has filled that role admirably but no doubt Nash and Sean Marks would like to have a seasoned vet going into the playoffs come April. Dragic has played 56 games in the post-season, starting 37.

There’s no pressing deadline for Dragic to sign anywhere. He is already a free agent so is unaffected by the so-called buyout deadline on March 1. Under league rules, players waived or bought out after this date cannot play in post-season. Dragic has already cleared that hurdle.

Should the Nets want to sign Dragic, they’d have to clear a roster spot of their own since they are already at 15 standard NBA deals and two two-ways. Dragic is seen as the only buyout candidate of interest to the Nets.