It's a league of competition. But Isaiah Thomas still wants Eric Bledsoe back, even though Bledsoe will take his starting job. And Goran Dragic wants Bledsoe back, even though Bledsoe could be making twice what Dragic makes.
In any professional sport, your teammates are your competition as much as any opponent. You have to be competitive to win a starting position or even big minutes. On the Phoenix Suns, who project to have three staring-caliber point guards on the roster next season, competition will be at hand all season long.
I recently became more aware of this bit of natural selection when my daughter's boyfriend was drafted into the Braves organization this summer. After a month in rookie ball, he told her what adjustments he's had to make in the pros. There's the six meals a day to gain weight and the constant workouts in between games, as well as the nomadic lifestyle of living in a hotel.
But what struck him the most was the new level of competition among his teammates. In high school and club ball, it's all about building up your teammates and supporting them at every turn. Even the ones who play your position. "TEAM" is central in amateur sport. The pros are different. When you pitch well, your pitching mates don't talk to you as much. When you pitch poorly, they're suddenly around again. That's because your performance has so much to do with whether they are moving up the organization or bagging groceries next year.
Such is the case at every level of pro sport. So it's unusual when you hear of genuine love and support for each other, even at the highest levels.
Yet in true valley fashion, at least two of the point guards welcome the company of a third. Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas both want Eric Bledsoe back, even though it will cost them minutes and maybe even a starting position.
Last year in Phoenix was quite cleansing to the soul. No one was fighting each other, or fighting for more minutes over a teammate. It helps when you're already at the top, and your contract is secure.
Here's a taste of the competition, and how one player handles it.
A lot has been said about you and Eric Bledsoe. How did you perceive the whole story of his arrival and thus also of his status in the team? Did you feel threatened?
GD: I did not feel threatened. Of course, you are looking a bit differently about the whole thing if you get into the competition. But I was even more self-confident, and I even more "chew" on training. Many people say that competition is healthy, and I agree with that. I'm not afraid of anybody, I'll always give my best, and if I don't succeed, I can't do anything more.
In contrast, here's what Kendall Marshall had to say about having competition at the point guard position last year.
"First of all winning, but my second goal is to kind of prove that I can be a contributor on this team," Marshall said. "I've been in prove-it mode since I got here, I think. With them bringing in [Goran Dragic] last year, bringing [Eric Bledsoe] in this year - they're two great guys, I'm very excited to play with them. But at the same time, I want to prove that I can play with them and be on the court with them."
--Marshall, before Summer League last year
And then there's Sebastian Telfair from 2012, when Marshall was drafted and they had to fight for the back up role."It's going to be war.
"It's going to be war," Telfair repeated about their training camp battle during Monday's Media Day festivities. "I don't know if you guys are going to be down there [at training camp], but you might want to get down there. It's going to be a sight to see.
"You've got to be competitive. When we step into that building to play against another team that competitive nature will go down versus each other, but training camp is the best part to go out there and show what you've been working on this summer and show how dedicated you are to the game. I'm a lot better as a player when I'm competing."
Next year won't be as easy, with the Suns facing so many expiring contracts at key positions. Dragic himself could be a free agent next summer, and most likely will be. He's even hinted at it already.
But does that mean he doesn't want Bledsoe mucking up the works by coming back?
Just in the last few days, incumbent star Goran Dragic - he of the expiring $7.5 million contract - and new free agent Isaiah Thomas - he of the long-term $7-million-per-year contract - both told reporters that they still want Eric Bledsoe back in Phoenix this season.
RealGM: Do you stay in touch with Eric Bledsoe? Do you receive information about his situation and do you pay attention to it?
Dragic: I follow him on Twitter. I talked with Jeff couple of weeks ago and they still didn't know if they are going to offer him a contract. We are waiting for his decision. But I think he is a big part of this team. He was great last year and we played together well. I hope he will sign for the next year.
And then Isaiah Thomas weighed in as well.
"People always ask me, ‘What's going to happen with you, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic?' At the end of the day I'm going to play, we're going to play together, we're going to have fun with it and we're going to figure it out," Thomas said.
"I mean whatever happens, it's for the best, and that's how I'm going about it. We're going to compete each and every day, we're going to make each other better and we're going to do what's best for the team. ... The coaching staff and the organization said, ‘You're going to be a big part of what we do. We want Eric Bledsoe back - we hope he comes back because we feel like with the three of you guys it would be a combination that no other NBA team has.' One thing that's good about it is that we're three different basketball players, three different guards; we're not all the same, we go about our ways differently, we play the game of basketball differently and we can complement each other in different ways. I'm just excited about it."
In a game that's all about competition and beating out that competition, the two signed point guards want the third, unsigned one back. Even knowing the unsigned one will potentially make almost double what each of them make in a season. They don't care about that.
They want to be that three-headed monster. They want run it down opponents' throats. And they don't worry about anything else. Thomas is okay coming off the bench. He signed with that understanding.
Dragic and Thomas realize the Suns are better with the Slash Triplets intact. We can even still call them the Slash Brothers. I am sure that, if and when Bledsoe signs up, the Suns and national media will tout the Suns with those three players on the billboards.
Come on, Eric. Get this over with and join up for good.
Re-form the Slash Brothers!
It's an early start, so make sure you set your DVR if you have to work. Hopefully, we'll get lucky and have Jogi, Kat, or someone overseas to recap the game for us.
ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
I did it, and I challenged the rest of the BSotS staff.
So did Jacob.
But so far, everyone else on the Bright Side staff has been missing in action.
So long, Dick.
Well, Kevin Love is not headed Phoenix. You probably already knew this. While it's unlikely that I'll tell you anything that the diehard Suns fan has not yet read or heard, I did come across something interesting.
In this era, is Minnesota's trade the best involving a superstar?
The Phoenix Suns offense: Then and Now
Tuesday night in the final game leading up to the FIBA World Cup we get an intriguing matchup at the point guard position. Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and representing the United States, will be playing opposite Goran Dragic, representing Slovenia.
Former Sun Hakim Warrick is continuing his quest to return to the NBA.
Greg Esposito of Suns.com writes that one of the most iconic teams in Phoenix and NBA history, is sorely underrepresented when it comes to inclusion in video games.
A former Flagstaff sports writer, who has covered the Suns as well as other teams, is having his book "When The Game Stands Tall" adapted for the big screen.
Multiple NBA teams have expressed interest in signing free agent Emeka Okafor, who was most recently with the Suns. Okafor missed all of the 2013-14 NBA season due to a herniated disc in his neck.
The offseason NBA Twitter games continues. This time it's #NBAMovies.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has completed the "Ice Bucket Challenge." He then issued the challenge to California Governor Jerry Brown, for California first lady Maria Shriver, and Houston Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon. I'll save you a search, let's all reminisce.
An interesting look at the evolution of the Team USA basketball jerseys. I'll put the 1960 look at the top.
As of Sunday morning, Auburn head basketball coach Bruce Pearl can recruit again, without restrictions, for the first time in three years. It didn't take long for the phone to ring with calls from well-wishers, and the first was from Charles Barkley.
Syracuse head basketball coach Jim Boheim once remarked that Suns guard Tyler Ennis should return to play another season for the Orange, rather than head to the NBA. Here's a look at some of the other "crazy stuff" the iconic college basketball coach has said.
Training camp in Arizona just got a bit more crowded.
According to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, NBA veteran and former Sun Earl Barron and undrafted free agent Casey Prather have accepted invitations to join the Suns for training camp on unguaranteed contracts.
Fans may remember Barron from his stint with the Suns in 2010-11 where he played in 12 games - starting half of them - and averaged 3.0 points and 3.3 rebounds on 23.5 percent shooting. The 33-year-old center is listed at 7 feet and 245 pounds and has appeared in 124 career games.
Our very own Scott Howard spent valuable work time to chronicle the Barron Experience in the Valley. Take a walk down memory lane. For those that don't like clicking links, here's a snippet.
In fact, Earl has the lowest field goal percentage of any Phoenix Suns player in history that attempted more than 27 shots. I had to bold that. Think of some of the guys who've played for this team. I barely recall seeing an Earl Clark shot that wasn't a brick, yet in his 2 individual seasons he shot 14% and 15% better than Barron.
To find Barron some company I searched for any Suns players who joined him in what I'll call the special "Over 50 shots, under 30% shooting" club. It's like the 40/40 club, except crappy and probably without steroids. Even with that extended criteria, Barron has only 3 buddies in Suns franchise history:
- Jumaine Jones (2006-07) - 14/51, 27.5%
- Jeff Cook (1987-88) - 14/59, 23.7%
- Joe Thomas (1970-71) - 23/86, 26.7%
Who the hell is Joe Thomas? Never mind that. Guess what all of those players have in common? If you guessed that their awful shooting seasons with Phoenix were their last in the NBA - you win 651 Scott Howard fun bucks. Bad news for our boy E-Barron.
For a more recent update on what Barron has been up to, check out Geoff Allen's latest "Where are the now?" story.
Prather is a 6-foot-5-inch, 200-pound swingman out of Florida who averaged 13.8 points on 60.3 percent shooting as a senior last year before going undrafted. He participated in Summer League with the Atlanta Hawks, but struggled, averaging 5.2 points on 40 percent shooting in 20 minutes per game.
Prather's game is similar to that of the Suns 2014 lottery pick T.J. Warren. He's not a shooter (32 total 3-point attempts in 127 career games at Florida) but he excels at cutting off the ball and slashing to the basket to finish around the rim. He's long and athletic (6-foot-9.25-inch wingspan and a 37.5-inch max vertical jump) and a hard worker who improved from being a bench player his first three years to becoming a star as a senior. Here's a very dunk-y highlight video showcasing his hops.
The Suns are currently at 13 guaranteed contracts without Eric Bledsoe, so there isn't a lot of room on this roster. The Suns have already met the minimum, and only have two spots open (again, without Bledsoe). The odds of either player making the team are low.
Barron is likely just a big body to bang with the other bigs in camp. The Suns aren't terribly deep in the frontcourt, but the team already held onto Shavlik Randolph to fill in as the fifth big.
Prather is a bit more interesting. The Suns don't have room for another wing with Gerald Green, Archie Goodwin, Marcus Morris and P.J. Tucker already fighting for limited minutes, but he's still fairly young at 24 and could be looked at as a developmental prospect. If Prather has a stronger showing in camp than he did this summer, the D-League is a possibility where the Suns would be able to keep an eye on him.
Training camp begins in Flagstaff on Saturday.