With a sledgehammer or shovel routinely in hand, Goran Dragic worked with a construction crew to build a home in his native Slovenia. No, this wasn't his job prior to making it big in the NBA – rather a hands-on approach proudly taken by the Phoenix Suns guard.
But as eager as Dragic is to open the door of his first home for the first time, he'd rather that moment be pushed back because of an admittedly surprising playoff berth.
"The house will still be there," Dragic said. "The playoffs, you never know. It's a privilege to play in the playoffs, always."
Dragic says he grew up in a middle-class family that lived in a modest studio apartment in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. His parents slept in one bed while he and his brother, Zoran, slept on a bunk bed not far away.
Dragic said the tight quarters made his family very close-knit. His new home will be a five-minute drive from where he grew up.
Dragic became very fascinated with architecture and interior design as a teen as he began dreaming about building his own home one day. While playing professionally in Slovenia, Spain and in the NBA with the Suns and Houston Rockets, he would often walk around on the road during his down time to check out the local architecture and furniture for ideas. He adored the historic columns he saw in Athens, Greece, and he actually had columns built into the back of his new home.
"[The columns] are main thing being built from other cultures in the house," said Dragic, 27. "Probably the main thing from the United States will be the furniture. My wife loves furniture here."
Dragic and his wife, Maja, began having a three-bedroom home built in Ljubljana two years ago on a lot they bought. Considering he will have made $22 million in his career by season's end, he has the means to easily pay for a company to build the home without lifting a finger. Instead, he hired his father-in-law's home building company and an architect.
Dragic thought it was important to be physically involved in building his first home during the offseasons and quickly became passionate about it. He dug holes where needed and discarded hazardous materials. He carried bags of cement. He swung a sledgehammer to knock down a wall of an old home that was demolished on his property. He talked regularly with the architect. He also maintains he didn't engage in any "dangerous" activity that could have injured him.
So why was it so important for Dragic to be involved in building his home?
"It's going to be my house, and I'm going to live in the house," said Dragic, who has a young son. "When you have kids, one day you can say, 'Your daddy helped build that house.' It was fun for me and different.
"I've always been in sports, but this was kind of a different passion for me. I owned the house and I wanted to be part of it."
In the meantime, Dragic has played the biggest role in carrying the load in the Suns' rebuilding process that is going quicker than expected.
The Suns had the least amount of wins in the Western Conference last season with 25. This season was expected to be possibly worse under first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek, but the Suns (36-27) could be the NBA's biggest surprise.
Dragic, very disappointed when he wasn't named a Western Conference All-Star, is averaging team-highs of 20.6 points, 6.2 assists and 1.3 steals.
"There is no pressure," said Dragic, who credits strong team chemistry and Hornacek's confidence in the team as the main reason for the Suns' success. "At the beginning of the season they were expecting us to win 15 or 16 games."
Recent losses have dropped the Suns to ninth in the West, just outside the playoff picture for the moment. There is still enough time for the Suns to snatch a postseason appearance away from the Dallas Mavericks or Memphis Grizzlies. Phoenix is hoping that the return of guard Eric Bledsoe, who's missed 39 games, from knee surgery could spark a run to its first playoff appearance since 2010.
Bledsoe, averaging 18 points and 5.8 assists, is expected to return Wednesday versus the Washington Wizards. Guard Gerald Green has played extremely well in Bledsoe's absence, but will eventually be moved back to the bench. Dragic will also move from point guard to shooting guard once Bledsoe is starting again.
"[Bledsoe] knows what he has to do and I know what I have to do help the team," Dragic said. "Of course, there will be a couple of changes in the starting lineup. But we are going to be a different team and have more options in the offense."
Before Dragic proudly returns to his new home with his imprint, he is hoping to be equally proud of helping build a stronger foundation for the future of the Suns with a playoff berth.
"At the beginning of the season, no one thought we'd play so well, including me," Dragic said. "We got nine new players, a new coaching staff, a new GM. To me, it's been a dream season…
"It's an unbelievable feeling. Hopefully, we will make the playoffs."