You might have seen him, or even spoken to him, and not known it. After all, he seems like any other Dad, without airs or cares, when he’s playing with two young children at one of South Florida’s parks. It’s not like you would know — especially now that he has veneers — that he’s the guy who keeps losing teeth on the court.
“I’m an average guy, skinny, not so tall, I put my sunglasses on, and I blend in,” Goran Dragic said prior to Thursday’s 96-92 loss to Toronto, which tied the second-round series at 1. “A lot of people don’t recognize me. I like that. Perfect.”
Off the court, this is what the plainspoken, plain-dressing Heat point guard from Slovenia — who turned 30 on Thursday — generally prefers. Anonymity rather than attention. Simple rather than spectacle.
“I already said to D-Wade and Steve Nash and those guys, ‘I don’t know how you guys do it,’ ” he said. “Of course, I want to be a famous basketball player, but not to that standpoint where you go out and you don’t have peace. You cannot enjoy your personal life. I would rather be with my family and do what I want.”
And yet, the more he continues to do what he wants on the court — he has been Miami’s best player during the past three games — the harder it might get to hide from all those piercing public eyes.
In his past three games, dating to Game 7 against Charlotte, Dragic has averaged 23.7 points while shooting 59.2 percent from the field. During that time, his starting counterpart — Charlotte’s Kemba Walker for one game and Kyle Lowry for two — has averaged a measly 11.3 points on grisly 25.5 percent shooting.
The 71 points are his highest-scoring three-game stretch of either the 2015-16 regular season or postseason. Need more context? Dragic didn’t score at least 20 points until 19th game of the regular season and did so only three times total prior to the All-Star break; after the All-Star break, with the Heat typically playing at a faster pace, he did so nine times in 28 starts.
He has found his form from behind the arc.
He has made 7 of 11 three-pointers during the past three games, including the 25-footer — after Cory Joseph mistakenly doubled Joe Johnson — that tied Thursday’s game with 10.4 seconds remaining in regulation.
Even while still fuming about getting called for a foul — as he took an elbow to the mouth from DeMar DeRozan on an apparent charge — Dragic managed a stitched-lip smile when asked about his shooting.
“It’s good,” he said. “It felt like it’s back on track, like a few years ago. I feel great. Hopefully to carry on. We need to regroup and have a huge two games in Miami.”
His improved perimeter accuracy is a huge plus for Miami. Opponents were comfortable leaving him open earlier in the season; he shot just 23 percent from long range prior to the new year. This was the last piece to him returning to the player he was when named Third Team All-NBA for Phoenix in 2013-14. After a rough six-game start to the playoffs, he has shown resilience, which is the most important postseason attribute of all.
This shouldn’t surprise. Consider how long his odds were, coming from a country of two million, with a modest basketball program, to the world’s premier league.
“I mean, I was always hoping to play in the NBA,” Dragic said. “Of course, when that thing happened, you’re like, ‘Finally, I did it, but the work starts now.’ I didn’t want to just be known as OK, I came to the NBA, and then in a few years, you’re gone. First my goal was to be the best Slovenian player in the league. Of course, after that, your appetite goes up.”
His appetite for everything but attention. When he returns to Slovenia during the summer, the people largely respect his privacy.
“Slovenian people, they are stand back,” he said. “Most of the time, they go, ‘There’s Goran, Goran.’ But they never approach. It’s just the way it is. And I like that. Because I can have my peace with my family.”
They are supportive, though, even if they can’t see all of his games; the country’s TV outlets have an agreement with the NBA for games, but they take whatever the NBA offers. There’s no Dragic package, per se.
But sure, he has thought of what a parade would be like. There was one for Radoslav Nesterovic when he won an NBA title with the Spurs in 2005, and one each time (2012 and 2014) that the Los Angeles Kings’ Anze Kopitar brought the Stanley Cup home.
“It was crazy,” Dragic said. “It was good. The people came, taking pictures, had a concert. Just one big party.”
In their honor.
Sounds sort of ... fun?
“Yeah, yeah,” he said, smiling. “Of course, you’re hoping someday to win a championship. I think we are on the right track, but still a lot of things to do.”
In the meantime, good luck tracking him down.