Eric Bledsoe and the Phoenix Suns are still far apart in contract negotiations almost a month into free agency, but the team is still undeterred. Team President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby recently told azcentral sports the Suns “hope and expect” Bledsoe will remain in Phoenix.
The report is courtesy of azcentral sports’ Paul Coro, and paints a realistic picture of the Suns’ stance on Bledsoe.
“We’ll continue to work as hard as we can within that restricted free agency system established by the collective bargaining agreement,” Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said Monday. “We continue to hope and expect that he will remain in a Suns uniform.”
As a restricted free agent, Bledsoe has very little leverage in the proceedings. Even if he has dreams of playing elsewhere and signs a contract with another team that he and his representation deems appropriate, Phoenix has maintained all along it will match any offer sheet Bledsoe inks. That insistence is partially what has swayed competitors from seriously courting him, too.
Many assumed that Bledsoe’s departure was likely when the Suns signed point guard Isaiah Thomas after drafting Tyler Ennis, another point guard. Phoenix enjoyed immense success last season when both Bledsoe and All-NBA Third Team honore Goran Dragic shared the floor, though, constantly pushing the pace and relying on their penetration and passing instincts in the halfcourt. According to Coro, Coach Jeff Hornacek simply plans to build on that strategy with a talent like Thomas in the fold, too.
“We expect Goran and Eric and Isaiah to be pushing the ball up the court like they did last year,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We’ll swing the ball from side to side where Isaiah can come off and create a shot or a play. They’re going to have to make decisions. If they double one of those two guys, we’re going to move the ball around and that’s when Anthony comes into play and drills 3s.
“You hear the three-headed monster about big guys all the time. Well, maybe we’ve got the three-headed monster in the guards.”
Thomas offered a similar sentiment to the AP, even saying he doesn’t mind coming off the bench.
“I value myself as a starter, but when it comes down to winning, I’ll do anything it takes to win,” he said. “I want to be on a winning team.”…
“At the end of the day, we’re going to play with each other, no matter who starts and who comes off the bench,” he said. “It’s about winning. The individual success will come.”
As for Bledsoe, the most recent report had he and the Suns tens of millions apart in contract negotiations. He’s seeking a five-year, $80 million max-level deal while Phoenix has countered by offering him a salary several million dollars fewer per season.
Sources: Suns offered Eric Bledsoe 4-year, $48 million contract. Bledsoe wants max of 5 years, $80 million. Sides far apart
— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 17, 2014
Barring heretofore unseen developments, though, Bledsoe will be in a Phoenix uniform next season. No player of his caliber has ever accepted a one-year qualifying offer, the free agent market has calmed, and even if he received the offer sheet he wants from another team, the Suns would surely match it.
That Babby “hopes” for Bledsoe’s return to the desert is lip service; “expecting” it is a far more realistic take.
What contract do you think Bledsoe deserves?
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