Eric Bledsoe's exit interview followed a pattern that has made me feel uneasy since his arrival in the desert and makes me question his desire to be a Phoenix Sun long term.
Let's play word association. Try to answer this before reading on to see how your answer compares to mine.
What's the first word that comes to mind when I say Eric Bledsoe?
What was your answer (feel free to share in the comments)? Was it something relative to his electric, exciting style of play? Perhaps his ridiculous athleticism?
My word is aloof.
Just to clarify what I mean by that let me offer the definition of that word. Aloof - at a distance, especially in feeling or interest; apart; reserved or reticent; indifferent; disinterested.
That about sums it up.
My stance on this hasn't changed, either. After Bledsoe's knee surgery this past season I referenced this dynamic in one of the Round Table articles on this site.
After his (most recent) surgery the press release basically said to ask his agent any questions about the procedure. It would be hilarious if people are told to ask his agent about his timeline for returning to action down the road. Something has felt off to me about Eric's body language since he came here - not sure if that means anything except that I possibly have issues with not feeling loved. If for some reason Bledsoe becomes a misfit for McMiracle's puzzle I can easily see him moving him. I think McMiracle sees all the players he brought in as valuable members of the team... and completely movable assets.
Ideally, it's great to have players that fans can have love affairs with. In this day that is becoming rarer with the turnstile rosters of professional sports teams. The Suns are one of the teams that has maintained great relationships with their players, current and former, over the years and many of them are very sincere in their fondness of this city and organization. Just look at former player/current head coach Jeff Hornacek. The Suns build those types of long lasting relationships.
When Eric was asked at his exit interview yesterday whether he would like to come back and play for the Suns he replied, "I'm just going into the summer trying to get 100% healthy and enjoy my family."
Rather benign, right? Well, he was asked variations of that question six times and responded the same way six times. He didn't stray from that response or expound upon it. He didn't go into greater depth. For me, though, it wasn't necessarily what he said, but what he didn't say.
He could have easily responded with something to the effect of...
I had a great time this season being a part of this team. The players, coaches and everyone in the organization made me feel really welcome. Phoenix is a great city and the fans here are awesome. Ultimately, though, this is a business and we'll just have to see how things play out this summer. I'm just going to be focusing on working hard to improve my game and spending time with my family.
But he didn't.
He had a chance to be complimentary of any of those things that I mentioned above. To give the impression that he enjoyed playing here, but instead he was, well, aloof.
Puzzlingly so to me. It seems pretty obvious to me he's being coached. The answer that he kept reiterating felt very rehearsed. So why are his handlers giving him this advice? This goes back to the embargo on media interaction during his rehabilitation process. Like it mentioned in my quote above, the official press release after Eric's surgery actually directed people to address inquiries to his agent rather than the team. Doesn't that seem a little off?
Even before that I always felt that Bledsoe's feelings towards being in Phoenix were lukewarm. I'm sure many of you have been in work environments where some people are really engaged and just love their job. They just seem to exude this aura of passion and and effervescence. Others just seem to be there to collect a paycheck. They are there more out of necessity than desire. It's a means to an end and they perform their duties in a perfunctory (at best) manner. They would have no problem leaving at the first instant a better opportunity presented itself.
Which of those descriptions do you think fits Bledsoe better?
People have different personalities, so maybe Eric's is just of a more stoic nature. It's entirely possible that I'm reading way too much into this. But if I'm reading too much into this I would be surprised if I'm the only one who is somewhat perturbed about his indifference.
This current incarnation of Suns basketball holds fast to the team's tradition of bringing in players that the fans can really connect with. High characters guys who give off the impression that they genuinely want to be here. Unfortunately, I got more of that vibe out of every single other player on the roster this season than I did from Bledsoe.
I think that a lot of fans here in Phoenix would like Bledsoe to be a Sun, I'm just not sure that he strongly shares that sentiment. So maybe I should hold off on becoming too enamored with the idea of him being here... since he doesn't appear to share that sentiment.
Or maybe it's just a case of my skin not being as thick as Lon Babby's. That I'm just upset because, like I previously mentioned, I have issues with not feeling loved.
But I don't.
Here it is Brightsiders. Make your picks for this year's NBA playoffs and win the admiration and respect of your peers... or at least have something to lord over their heads next time they doubt your prognosticative prowess.
As soon as the final buzzer sounded on last night's game, and the Suns season, I know the exact question that was on every Suns fan's mind -
How awesome is Archie Goodwin? Where is my playoff prediction contest?
Back by popular demand (and I use demand in the loosest sense of the word) is the (second annual) Bright Side of the Sun 2014 NBA Playoff Prediction Contest!
*This is the part where I imagine people cheering in the background as I type.
I actually won the playoff prediction contest on this site in 2012 (there may or may not have been a tie), but didn't put up a formal staff run thread until last year. That means the winner of the first annual contest was none other than the inimitable MMotherwell... who I would wager will be back this year to defend his crown (he didn't really get a crown). This could be your chance to unseat him and be immortalized in Bright Side of the Sun glory!
Here's how to play: Choose the winner of each series and the number of games each series will last. You will be awarded two points for each correct series winner and one more point if you correctly predict the number of games it took the victor to triumph. Once an entry has been submitted no duplicate entries will be accepted from different contestants.
Here are tiebreakers for the NBA Finals round (because ties suck): If two or more contestants are tied going into the Finals and picked the same team they will be asked to pick the total points scored in the deciding game on a first come first serve basis. The winner will be whoever is closest without going over. If two or more players end up tied after the Finals and picked different teams the contestant who picked the correct team will be the winner.
I think that covers it, but let me know if you notice any loopholes. I've had a rough life.
Spurs over Mavericks, 4-1
Thunder over Grizzlies, 4-2
Clippers over Warriors, 4-3
Rockets over Blazers, 4-2
Spurs over Rockets, 4-1
Thunder over Clippers, 4-3
Thunder over Spurs, 4-2
Pacers over Hawks, 4-0
Heat over Bobcats, 4-0
Nets over Raptors, 4-2
Bulls over Wizards, 4-1
Pacers over Bulls, 4-3
Heat over Nets, 4-3
Pacers over Heat, 4-2
Thunder over Pacers, 4-2
Point totals will be updated after each round and the story will be front paged as the results are updated. Fell free to check your scoring to make sure the results are correct. Please omit the spaces between your picks to help truncate the comment section. Please be sure to make your picks lucid, as confusing or ambiguous entries may be disqualified. No entries will be accepted after the start of the first game Saturday (4/19).
I had a pretty hard time picking my teams this year. The Eastern Conference is just garbage. Miami or Indiana would probably be the sixth seed in the Western Conference and I wouldn't pick either to get past the Clippers in the first round. Instead it's difficult for me to fathom one of them not getting to the Finals by default...
San Antonio seems like the best team in the
Western Conference NBA, but I think that will be a popular pick so I'm going with OKC in hopes that may put me over the top if they can pull at least a little bit of an upset. Then again, the Grizzlies are by far (in my opinion) the best 5-8 seed in either conference, so maybe I lose my overall winner in the first round. Oh well.
The Suns are in great shape going forward, with a 48-34 team and a ton of picks and cap space to add to the fun. Let's review what's to come this summer.
We have all summer to delve into this issue further, and believe me we will do just that. However, on the first day of the offseason it's time to set the stage for what's to come.
The Phoenix Suns finished with a 48-34 record, tied for the most wins by a team not to reach the playoffs. In the automated power rankings on ESPN that factors in recent play, strength of schedule, and offensive and defensive efficiency, the Suns finished the season ranked sixth overall.
But they didn't make the 16-team playoff field.
Minnesota, so far, has kept their top-13 protected pick. But if the Suns somehow jump to the top of the lottery, that would push Minnesota down one rung and... the pick would go to Phoenix.
But let's assume the 98.5% chance the Suns stay right where they are.
The Suns will enter 2014 NBA Draft season with three picks in the first round:
Last night, Washington jumped into 5th in the Eastern Conference thereby dropping the Suns' pick to 18th overall. The Pacers finished first in the Eastern Conference, but give the Suns the 27th pick because three Western teams had better records.
The Suns also are one of only a small handful of teams that still have 2013-14 cap space that can be used to absorb salaries during the draft in trades.
The Suns still have up to 3 first round picks in the 2015 NBA Draft to use in trades as well.
Going into the summer, the Suns will have two starters enter restricted free agency: Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker. Each player will have a 'cap hold' against the Suns' salary cap until they sign a contract with someone, anyone.
That's just over $11.4 million in cap holds - money they cannot spend in free agency even though the players are not under contract.
The only way that number changes is when (a) Bledsoe and/or Tucker sign an offer sheet or contract after July 1 and/or (b) the Suns trade one or more of the picks.
Unless the Suns renounce the rights to Emeka Okafor, they will have a cap hold - money they cannot spend - of $19.18 million this summer. Expect the Suns to renounce his rights.
If Channing Frye opts out of his final year at $6.8 million in order to secure a longer-term deal, which he just might do, then the Suns will incur a new cap hold of $9.6 million - a net increase against their cap of $2.8 million. That cap hold of $9.6 million will stay in place until Frye signs a contract or the Suns renounce their rights (his Bird Rights).
Frye just might opt out, with the intention to sign a longer-term deal that just might be less per year than $6.8 million in exchange for security. He talked about that this week - wanting security. He did not mention accepting less, money, but that's usually how it goes.
If that happens, the Suns cap space shrinks until his contract is signed, which cannot happen before the moratorium ends in July 11 at earliest.
Dionte Christmas has a deal for $1.15 million that is not guaranteed until July 31. He just might be used a salary filler in a trade in July, where the receiving team can release him after the deal is done.
Or, he might just be kept on the team as a great, great 12th man. There isn't a better cheerleader and locker room presence as 12th man out there.
The Suns have 8 players on guaranteed deals, including Frye, for the 2014-15 season. Below is a breakdown, in order largest salary to smallest salary of the Suns cap situation, per shamsports.com
These numbers are a bit misleading, as they include Eric Bledsoe's $3.73 million contract which he will never sign. Bledsoe does have the option to sign that deal and become unrestricted next summer but no player ever does that unless no one wants them and that's their last resort.
As far as guaranteed deals go, including Frye's player option, the cap total is only about $30 million.
But even then, the Suns do NOT have more than $31 million to spend in free agency. You have to discount the cap holds as well.
Here's the bottom line, including Frye's $6.8 million.
So, that's just about $20 million to spend while Bledsoe and Tucker are still just cap holds. Once they sign contracts, their cap number will change accordingly.
It's possible the Suns would sign a free agent for up to $20 million before Bledsoe and/or Tucker sign contracts/offers.
There you go, Suns fans. Not only do the Suns return their 48-34 pieces, but they can add up to $20 million in new pieces PLUS three more draft picks.