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.