Everything is within reach...

There was no other outcome for this season. When the Phoenix Mercury began winning games at a historical clip and the defending champions proved they were as good as ever this collision became the epicenter of the WNBA.

Now it comes down to one game.

In Game One the Mercury showed what they look like at as close to perfection as they can be for a full game. Great offense, balance, team defense, hustle, and a raucous home crowd on their feet all game. They humbled the Lynx in a way that has been unheard of for the past four years during the playoffs.

Then in Game Two the table was set for a Mercury win, a sweep, and a step closer to their third WNBA Championship.


All of that was interrupted by a 13-0 fourth quarter run that ended a steady overall performance. Until that fourth quarter run the Mercury were in control maintaining the lead for just over 30 consecutive minutes. In that fourth quarter Maya Moore was the MVP of the league with 13 points (32 overall) and the supporting cast was as good as they usually are scoring 13 points themselves while limiting the Mercury to 15 points as a team.

The ball stuck on offense and defense was not able to defend the three-point line or stop the Lynx from getting to the free-throw line.

Overall the game just fell flat for the Mercury over time, as it did for the Lynx for three quarters in Game one, which is what happens when a great team is on their game. The Mercury are a great team. The Lynx are a great team. The Mercury were the better of the two teams in the first round and the Lynx were the better of the two teams in the second round. This is precisely why there is a round three.

"Everyone is disappointed but we knew it's going to be a tough series going in," Head Coach Sandy Brondello after the loss. "These are the two best teams in the WNBA, they are the defending champions."

All of this. The historic season. The milestones. The records. All of that was for one reason and that was to have the opportunity to play this game at home, in front of a legitimate X-Factor, where they have the home court advantage. The Lynx will have to come and take this away from the Mercury in a hostile environment and the Mercury will have to dethrone the defending champions.

Everything done in the regular season is a precursor to the post-season. Sneak in with an average record and you have an uphill battle to climb. Dominate the standings and you become the ladder.

In the history of the Western Conference Finals for the WNBA there have been six total deciding game threes all of which were won by the team with home-court advantage. Never has a road team come out victorious in this setting. The Comets (1999), the Sparks (2001, 2003), Storm (2004), the Silver Stars (2008), and the Mercury most recently in 2009 when they cut down the nets.

"We have an opportunity to go back to Arizona and have the "X-Factor" there to support us," Brondello on Game Three. "And it's our home court so we need to go in there with confidence and shake off the things we didn't do well."

Whether on the road or at home the team was consistent winning games no matter the setting, but the home crowd inspires the team just that much more than a road venue.

The team averages nearly four more points per game at home, one rebound per game more, and shoots the ball nearly lights out (50.3% field-goal 37.6% three) from nearly everywhere.

Penny Taylor is a perfect example of that.

In the last two home games she has been the straw that stirs the Mercury flavored drink averaging 11.5 points 9.5 rebounds 7.0 assists 2.5 steals and infinite hustle on both ends of the floor. Her defense, effort, and ability to just about do everything well on the court. Her play glued the team together in their game one struggle versus the Sparks and sparked the team to a route of the Lynx in game one of this series. Her all-around play is crucial.

The Lynx did not dominate the Mercury or do anything revolutionary. Moore played like an MVP and they made plays at the end of the game. Like Taurasi said after the loss, "At the end of the game it comes down to making plays and getting stops."

For the Mercury they have to execute their gameplan and produce.

"We have to control the things we can control," Taurasi on Game Three.

Moore was a non-factor in Game One and the MVP of the league in Game Two. Taurasi, the teams best overall player, was efficient in Game One and inefficient in Game Two. Getting back to playing their style at home could be the deciding factor there.

For the series the Mercury have bested the Lynx in nearly every statistical category. They have outscored them (162-153), outrebounded them (77-63), dished out more assists (35-29), caused more havoc with blocks and steals (28-20), and got to the free-throw line more (38/43 -- 32/38) attacking the basket.

While the Mercury have dominated the team statistics the series is dead even in the most crucial category.

Everything the Mercury worked for is here. Having home court advantage by being the top team in the conference gives them the privilege of playing at home in this intense, pressure packed game. This series is eight quarters old with each team splitting them four a piece.

Now it comes down to going out there and controlling what they can control. Their play and effort.

Welcome back to the short-week Madhouse.  I hope everyone had a safe and awesome Labor Day weekend.  Lots of stuff to talk about this week: the NFL season is upon us, the FIBA World Cup is in full swing, some celeb iCloud accounts got hacked and Guardians of the Galaxy continues to dominate the movie going landscape, proving we are all, in fact, Groot.

So what's on your Awesome Mix, Vol.2?

Goran, Zoran, Bogdan. The next hit sitcom.

Goran Dragic and younger brother Zoran led Slovenia to a Group D victory over Mexico in the FIBA World Cup on Sunday. The brothers are back at it against South Korea Tuesday morning.

Phoenix Suns 2014 draft pick Bogdan Bogdanovich scored a victory in international play on Monday. The first round selection chipped in 16 points on 7 of 11 shooting in Serbia's 83-70 win over Iran.

To catch you up in case you haven't been following like you should, here's a breakdown of all 24 teams participating in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Josh Planos of the Washington Post weighs in on where Eric Bledsoe should go next season as a free agent.

The Warriors added some backcourt depth with Leandro Barbosa leaving Phoenix for Golden State on a one year deal at the veteran minimum.

CBSLA picked the top five protagonists in all of sports, and a former Phoenix Sun found himself on the list. In fact, he finished in front of Tim Tebow.

Speaking of Mr. Tebow, the second coming, he wasn't shy about sharing his thoughts on today's NBA.

NBA.com has released of the top 10 Suns plays from the 2013-14 season. Plenty of Green, Bledsoe, and Plumlee. Let the debating begin.

The must see 2:17 of your offseason. Get excited for the future Suns fans, it's the Isaiah Thomas summer mix tape.

Paul Coro reminds you that making the playoffs in the Western Conference is not a given.

The Suns released their 2014-15 broadcast schedule on Wednesday. Coverage begins with the 2014 home opener against the Los Angeles Lakers on October 29th.

Let's remember fondly Charles Barkley telling us, "I am not a role model." Demarcus Cousins has a different perspective.

The CEO of Clotherie, an upscale store specializing in Italian hand-crafted suits and frequented by many Phoenix Suns players and announcers, died while swimming in Maui this past weekend.

The Suns have launched a media campaign to find "new fan models." The most creative submissions will be included in an album on the Suns Facebook page.

Don't think you fit the mold of what is being looked for in a new fan model? You can still be active with the Suns and social media by helping the Morrii pick their next tattoo.

Anyway, let's get to the professionals. Meet your 2014-15 Phoenix Suns Dancers!

Serbia got back to winning on Monday, a day after falling by a point to France. Suns draft pick Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting and had the best plus-minus on his squad in an...

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Eric Bledsoe has dwindling options, but even still he must make the most important decision of his career sometime in the next 30 days.

The calendar has turned to September, marking the final month in which the Eric Bledsoe saga can drag along between him and the Phoenix Suns.

Just like students who wait to cram for a test. Or real estate agents who negotiate over a house. Or NBA front offices who wait until the trade deadline to pull the trigger on that trade that's been talked about for weeks or months.

People always save their best compromise for last, so it's human nature to assume the other side is holding back until they are forced by a deadline. And for that same reason, we hold our own best-and-final offer until the last moment so that we're not negotiating against ourselves.

Such is the situation with the Phoenix Suns and Eric Bledsoe.

Neither side wants to give in. Especially since after that it's just waiting until training camp anyway. My wife calls it "eating your liver". If you're going to accept less than your ideal, you don't want a ton of time to sit and think about it afterward.

So we wait.

October 1

There are 30 days in September. October 1 is the deadline day on which Bledsoe must sign something in order to play this season without losing money, according to the CBA. But training camp starts on September 30, and they actually leave for Flagstaff on September 29. So his decision could come down to missing a practice or two, which seems petty after all this time.

Right now, he's losing nothing. Players aren't paid during the summer, unless they voluntarily elect that option. Usually, players are paid as the season goes along.

And right now, the Suns are losing nothing. They know that, at the very least, they will have Bledsoe for next season. At the best, they will have a Bledsoe that's under contract for a long, or a big return in a sign-and-trade. But they won't lose him for nothing this season, that's for sure.

Bledsoe does have the option to play somewhere else - such as overseas in Europe or China - but he would still be a restricted free agent all over again when he returns. The Suns would keep his rights. There's no way Bledsoe wants to go through this again.

The money

Bledsoe's fallback is the $3.7 million per year Qualifying Offer. There's risk involved. Any injury could derail his plans for a max contract next summer to make up for what he loses this season.

Here's the recap, again, of what options Bledsoe has on the table to meet or exceed the Suns' current $48 million offer over 4 years.Bledsoe-options-best

There are caveats to all these scenarios, of course:

  • Suns offer: I just assumed a flat $12 million per year from the Suns, though there are rumors the offer was front-loaded to give Bledsoe more money in the first year than the fourth year. Per the CBA, the numbers can only fluctuate up to 7.5% either direction each year for the "home" team with his Bird Rights and 4.5% per year from any other team.
  • Alternate plan MIN: I came up with the minimum starting value Bledsoe would need next summer to ultimately come out even after four years. Someone would have to offer Bledsoe a starting salary of at least $14.1 million with max raises of 4.5% each year. Note: only a handful of NBA point guards make more money than that each season.
  • Alternate plan MAX: This is Bledsoe's ideal alternate plan. He takes the QO this season to turn it into a MAX offer from someone next summer. I am assuming a 7.5% increase in the cap next summer. We know it will be bigger, but not exactly by how much yet. But I did read that the league wouldn't want to jump the cap any higher than that from one year to the next.
  • There are variations, of course. Bledsoe could sign a three-year offer with the Suns and potentially make a lot more money in 2017-18 on a new contract from them or another team. He could even negotiate a player option after two seasons, technically. Or even one season, as long as its the Suns making that offer. Other teams cannot give him a player option earlier than the third season in a restricted free-agent offer sheet.

Another risk to Bledsoe

Here's another risk at which the Suns placed Bledsoe: the presence of Isaiah Thomas.

If Bledsoe takes the qualifying offer, he returns to a Suns team with no less than three starting-caliber point guards vying for minutes and deserving of 30+ per night. He won't be handed the reins to "earn" his next contract no matter how well he plays, or how much he focuses on himself versus the team.

While the Suns hedged their bets on Bledsoe by signing a replacement in case of injury or non-performance, they also sent a message to Bledsoe that they were not going to throw all their eggs in that one basket.

Bledsoe must consider the fact that Thomas has beaten out all competition in his career, despite the odds against him. He won't acquiesce to a bench role if he's better than Bledsoe. And Thomas has the ideal temperament for coach Hornacek - fighting the odds, willing to do whatever he can to succeed while smiling all the while.

Factor in Goran Dragic not going anywhere, the stellar performance of Gerald Green last season and the likely development of Archie Goodwin, and Bledsoe can see that 35 minutes per night are not guaranteed to him. He has to earn those 35 minutes a night by being better than he's ever been.

Would a team next summer give him $15-16 million per year coming off 28 minutes per night? And what if the Suns underachieve? Look what happened to Lance Stephenson this offseason. His influence on the Pacers was questioned when they underachieved, despite George and Hibbert regressing while Stephenson had the career year.

That's a big risk to Bledsoe if he signs the QO and some of it will be completely out of his control.

He's all in or he's not. He's got to be GREAT if he's going to earn a max contact next summer. There's a lot less pressure if he just takes a long-term deal with the Suns now, even if it's lower than he thinks he deserves. No wonder he's in a foul mood.

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