Goran Dragic did not know it at the time, but the trade that uprooted him from Phoenix, the only NBA home he had known, was the best thing that could have happened to a then-24-year-old point guard who had been charged with the task of backing up a two-time league MVP.
"It was hard at the beginning," he said of being dealt to Houston minutes prior to the trade deadline in 2011, "but then when you realize that maybe this move was really good for you, and it was for me, then I was really happy."
Wednesday, Dragic makes his return to Houston as he and the Suns start a three-game road trip.
"Over there, I got more minutes," he said of his 88-game stint with the Rockets. "It was easier for me because when I was here, here was Steve Nash, one of the best point guards. Every time when I step on the court, it's really hard to play as Steve. He always had great numbers. You feel a little bit of pressure because you have to play every night good if you want to stay a little bit longer on the court."
The trade to Houston gave Dragic a fresh start, which was needed after his initial two-plus seasons with the Suns. His big break with the Rockets, however, would not come until the following season.
"In Houston, I got lucky -- I mean, lucky for me, not for the team that Kyle Lowry got hurt," he said. "And then of course, I got more chances, more minutes. I think that was my crucial moments in NBA that I can demonstrate to people that I can play as a starting point guard. I knew that this was my big chance. I was working the last four years for this. I knew I had to take advantage of it."
After Lowry went down, Dragic started the final 26 games of 2012 and averaged 18.2 points, 8.3 assists and 1.85 steals while leading the Rockets to a 13-13 finish.
From afar, the Suns liked what they saw, enough to convince him to come back to Phoenix with a four-year, $30 million free agent contract.
The trip to Houston will be one of two Dragic and the Suns make over the next four weeks.
"It's going to be an emotional game," he said. "I established my name over there so it's going to be nice to see all those friends and people in the organization.
"Like always, I'm going to give everything what I got to try to win that game."