Have the negotiations between the Suns and Bledsoe reached a breaking point?
According to the story, a source with knowledge of the situation reported that the contract talks have apparently become strained, and that the "relationship is on the express lane to being ruined."
The source mentioned that the two sides are still "very far apart", in regard to the ongoing contract negotiations that have been taking place since the beginning of free agency. According to the story, "the effort by the Suns to undermine Bledsoe’s market is what has angered Bledsoe and his reps and led to a standoff in which the relationship is now on the verge of being irreparable, we’re told."
It's unclear of course who the source is, however, and just how close to the negotiations they actually are. Could this be an authentic reflection of the current state of negotiations that has nearly frustrated Bledsoe to the point of wanting to leave Phoenix?
However, could this also be an intentional leak by Bledsoe's camp to put additional pressure on the Suns to increase their offer? Or, could this simply be someone's opinion of a recent statement by Eric Bledsoe himself in which he appeared to express frustration over the Suns' using his restricted free agency to their benefit? Yes on both possibilities.
The point is, we just don't know.
In fact, just yesterday, Kevin Zimmerman from another reputable Suns' blog, Valley of the Suns, reported that Bledsoe and the Suns were still negotiating, and that talks had not broken down to the point of a stalemate.
If this new report is correct, then the situation seems to have suddenly taken a turn for the worse. However, until we hear from the man himself, or something on the record from either side, they are all still just rumors at this point.
The Phoenix Suns have gone through such a stunning transformation in such a short period of time that they are now trading in good pieces for better ones.
Last summer it was addition by subtraction for the Suns.
The team had just suffered through a season that was a miasma of losing commingled with laziness, frustration and subversive tactics. Lance Blanks, Lindsey Hunter and Michael Beasley epitomized the failure of one of the worst seasons in the team's history.
But it wasn't just them. Shannon "the Cannon" Brown played me first basketball. Kendall Marshall seemed to feel entitled. Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat were visibly vexed by the mounting losses. Even Wesley Johnson's smile didn't sparkle quite as bright. The team chemistry was poisonous.
It was time for cataclysmic changes.
In came new GM Ryan McDonough and head coach Jeff Hornacek.
A scorched earth policy saw the Suns jettison all but four of the 16 players that played for them during the 2012-13 season. Only Goran Dragic, Markieff and Marcus Morris and P.J. Tucker remained.
Trades were made that resulted in unexpected contributions from incoming players like Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green. Channing Frye returned from a heart ailment that caused him to miss the previous season. Eric Bledsoe entered the fold in exchange for a bag of magic beans.
Things changed really fast.
In April of 2013 Hoops Habit didn't even have the Suns in the top 10 among non-playoff teams with a bright future. By January of 2014 Dime Magazine ranked the Suns number one among rebuilding teams that could take over in the future.
In the span of two summers the Suns went from a roster teeming with players they didn't want to one completely stocked with players they do. This second offseason has followed the trend of upgrading the roster.
Out went Channing Frye, Ish Smith, Dionte Christmas and Leandro Barbosa (sort of).
In are Isaiah Thomas, Anthony Tolliver, T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis.
The Suns roster gained a lot of talent and depth. If this would have been a trade I'm pretty sure it would be unilaterally considered a pantsing.
While the vivacity and locker room presence Christmas and Smith brought will be missed, the Suns are at a point where they need that chemistry to be elicited from more established veteran rotation players. Contending teams don't typically count on the players at the end of the bench to be glue guys for the team.
These guys weren't poisonous to the winning culture the Suns are fostering, they made a positive impact on the team last season. The Suns have just positioned themselves in the very enviable position of being able to trade good pieces for better ones.
Ish Smith is a peripatetic point guard for a reason. Despite his blinding speed, he has a broken shot that has relegated him to spot duty. Even his increased playing time last season was more of a matter of necessity, with Eric Bledsoe missing so much time. Still, it took Ish all of two days to land with a playoff team, the Houston Rockets, after he was released.
Dionte Christmas was overjoyed to make this team and showed it all year with his infectious enthusiasm. His off court demeanor was infinitely more valuable than anything he did on it. He was a source of endless puns and he played right along with them. Every time he scored in a home game, which wasn't that often, Christmas music blared through the arena.
Fans genuinely liked these guys. When they parted ways people said goodbye instead of good riddance. They were merely victims of circumstance. A team that is becoming more talented and deep at every turn. Unfortunately, Christmas and Smith have about the same value as a ham sandwich when it comes to trades. Unless a pittance somehow becomes critical in terms of salary matching these guys just don't factor into the equation.
Flash forward to T.J. Warren, who may have been the best player in the Vegas Summer League, and Tyler Ennis, who was rumored to be coveted by at least the Toronto Raptors, and the equation changes. These young players are better assets now and have more potential long term.
The Suns now have nine very competent rotation players, including Bledsoe, and their four first round picks from the last two drafts. The only player under contract who would probably be considered a placeholder is Shavlik Randolph. The other contracts are all relative bargains. The Suns have actually spent so wisely that the value of their contracts could potentially make matching salary in trades difficult because nobody really makes that much money. Trades will come, though, as the Suns look to consolidate several of their good pieces into one great one. Trades that I'm confident the Suns will win.
The Suns have come a long way from May 7, 2013 when the team hired Ryan McDonough to clean house. It is no longer a situation of addition by subtraction for the team.
It's addition by addition.
The Undertake has nothing on the Phoenix Mercury with their streak... There, it has been said. Moving on.
Record: 21-3 (.875)
Place In Standings: First (+2.0 on Minnesota)
Points Per Game: 85.71 (1st)
Points Against: 74.71 (1st)
In the world of basketball anything can happen. Look back at the times an 8-seed knocked off the top team in the conference in the NBA, the NCAA Tournament madness, and teams of destiny making it to the top of the mountain through the unlikeliest of odds. So inherently arrogant statements like the one I am about to make are bound to blow-up in my face.
This WNBA season has become a race to the finish line between the Phoenix Mercury, Minnesota Lynx, and the Atlanta Dream.
With that comes a major target on the backs of those teams. The Mercury know this and they are ready for the challenge.
"They’re going to try a lot of things," Brittney Griner on the target. "They’re going to try play us physical, they’re going to get in our head, get us mad. Just keep a cool head and a hot game, and keep playing like we did and get the win."
Diana Taurasi has been through this. Brittney Griner has been through this on an NCAA level. The rest of the roster has to fall in line and take the pressure off of the dynamic duo. With the Penny Taylor back in the fold, DeWanna Bonner becoming the utility player, and Candice Dupree playing at an All-Star Level the supporting cast is about as good as any contender has ever had.
The winning streak is another element in that target being placed firmly on the backs of each Mercury player. Every team is going to want to take a shot collectively and individually, with each player.
Great teams all have to deal with this target.
Every team is going to want to be that team that ends the 15-game winning streak. Every team is going to want to humanize the Mercury on the court. Tough, physical games like the what they have experienced since the All-Star Game are going to become more and more common as the season grows long. Is it realistic for the Mercury to win 25 games in a row leading to the playoffs then another 7 in a row after that? No, but sure. Anything is possible in the world of basketball, right?
Diana Taurasi: 6.46 assists per game to go along with her 17.8 points per game... The most astonishing element of this streak for Taurasi is that she as many 30+ point games (1) as single digit scoring games.
Penny Taylor: 24.4 minutes per game to go along with her 12.9 points per game... The most astonishing element of this streak for Taylor is that she has played all 15-games, taking over a few.
Brittney Griner: 4.6 blocks per game to go along with her 17.0 points per game... The most astonishing element of the streak for Griner is that she has only fouled out of three game total.
The Offense: 86.4 points per game... The most astonishing element of the streak for the offense is that they are not relying on it. Games have been won scoring 72, 78, and 78 along the way.
The Defense: 73.13 points allowed per game... The most astonishing element of the streak for the defense is that they are able to rely on it. Holding opponents under 70 (five times) and under 80 points consistently (12 times) along the way.
Clinching the playoffs 60% of the way through the season is one thing, but holy dominance batman the Mercury clinched HOME COURT ADVANTAGE at this stage of the season. Pretty crazy, awesome, stuff from this team as they are on a mission for greatness. Diana Taurasi is playing out of position, doing things she has shown she can do, but has never done at this level in her career.
This is a team with one unified goal.
For as good as the Suns were 70.5% into their season (34-24) they were busy overachieving while this Mercury team is meeting the expectations laid on them from last year. Overall this seasonal success is doing that and then some, but they will be defined by their win/loss record in the post-season. The only acceptable mark will be 7-???
Tuesday vs. Los Angeles Sparks at 7:00 p.m. AZ Time
Thursday @ Minnesota Lynx at 5:00 p.m. AZ Time
Saturday vs. Indiana Fever at 7:00 p.m. AZ Time