I’m a little more of an Eric Bledsoe fan after this weekend.
Trade talk involving Bledsoe is heating up, particularly following the news that Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving is requesting a trade out of Cleveland. The Suns are often mentioned as a trade partner, or as a third team as part of of a larger deal, or really whatever your imagination and a trade machine can come up with.
The Suns’ veteran guard spoke with azcentral sports from his basketball camp in Chandler, Arizona on Sunday, addressing both life and work in Phoenix.
In short, on living in Phoenix:
“I love everything about it.”
On working in Phoenix:
“At the same time I want to win.”
I’ll find it mildly surprising if you’ve made your way to this blog but are unfamiliar with #TheTimeline. In any event, for the uninformed, #TheTimeline is kind of like the Phoenix version of Philadelphia’s #TrustTheProcess. It’s a full-on commitment to a youth movement. That’s general manager Ryan McDonough’s master plan to snap the longest playoff drought in team history and restore the franchise to its former glory.
Four key members of this plan, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, and Devin Booker can’t yet drink legally. Tyler Ulis turned 21 last January. Bledsoe will be 28 this year.
Even the most aggressive estimates do not have the Suns competing in the loaded Western Conference before Bledsoe’s 30th birthday. The guy hasn’t seen playoff basketball since he was traded by the Clippers in 2013, and he’s played in precious few games post-All-Star break that even mean anything during his tenure in Phoenix.
“At the same time I want to win.”
This dude wants out. And he’s being awfully polite about it.
Not everyone makes winning a top priority. Eric Bledsoe sounds like one of the guys that wants to win. I don’t even think the wanting to win part is what’s most admirable. What I find most inspiring is that Bledsoe has career goals that may run inconsistent with those of his employer. And I believe he’ll continue to turn up the volume as his time passes in Phoenix. He’s not going to compromise his own objectives. Nor should he. Nor should Kyrie Irving.
Irving is the guy that puts less of an importance on winning. I like that too. He is most certainly going to a situation where he’s going to do less winning because the interests of his current employer do not align with his own.
Recently on a Suns Solar Panel podcast, our own Greg Esposito queried whether that’s the kind of player we want in Phoenix.
“Do you really want a guy who wants to walk away from the best team and player in the Eastern Conference because of his own ego?”
No. But I get it.
Is it that implausible that there are not more attractive options for a player of Irving’s level than working under the supervision of LeBron James in Cleveland, Ohio? Is it possible that all that winning simply isn’t worth it?
Espo’s point is well taken, and if I’m an NBA general manager, I don’t know how enthusiastic I’d be to add Irving to the roster. But I get it. Cleveland and LeBron with all that winning is still Cleveland and LeBron. And that’s not what Irving wants.
It feels like that’s what is going to happen with Bledsoe, if on a smaller scale. Let’s move him sooner than later. Players in the past have trashed Phoenix on the way out the door. Bled’s still remaining positive.
Bledsoe was also asked about being shutdown after 66 games last season, with the Suns out of contention.
“The front office made a decision and I had to live with it,” Bledsoe said. “I wasn’t OK with it, and I don’t know what basketball player would be. I want to compete. We weren’t winning but I still wanted to play with my teammates. But I couldn’t do anything about it.”
If the Suns are 22-44 after 66 games next season and Bledsoe is again headed to the bench, what’s his public response going to be? And what might that response do to the return Phoenix could get in a trade?
I’d prefer not to find out.