Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are building chemistry


PHOENIX — The Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic backcourt tandem is working out better than anyone could have hoped through the season’s first 22 games. Last night, the duo combined for 57 points in the Phoenix Suns’ 116-107 win over the Sacramento Kings.

At 13-9, the Suns now sit just a game behind the Los Angeles Clippers for first place in the Pacific Division. The point guard duo has certainly made things click during the current four-game winning streak.

Bledsoe has sparked the Suns with a return to the starting lineup. After he missed six games and came off the bench for two more because of a left shin injury, the Suns have gone 4-1 since his return, and the point guard duo has averaged 40 points per game. Against the Kings, Bledsoe scored a career high 28 points and Dragic scored 29, one point shy of having consecutive 30 point games.

Head coach Jeff Hornacek ranks the combined performance as one of their better games.

“They have had a lot of good ones,” Hornacek said. “I think the first game (against Portland) was pretty good.

“They are learning how to be out there together still and at the same time are playing great,” he added. “It can be a tough thing because both have to sacrifice a little of their game and it is working out very well for us.”

Bledsoe was not hesitant when asked about Friday’s game being one of their best.

“By far one of our best games,” Bledsoe said. “Both of us played well and we just played off each other.”

The Suns are a below-mediocre 5-6 when the two guards do not finish the game together. Dragic has missed three games and left two early to injury, while Bledsoe missed the six with his aforementioned shin injury. Phoenix is 8-3 when the two play the entire game and come out on the healthy side of things.

Bledsoe thinks the chemistry has developed so quickly due to their competitive nature.

“We just come out and play hard every night and whatever happens will happen,” he said.

With their rising success comes the comparison to other back-courts around the NBA. Some people have said they are on of the top-5 in the league already. While it’s is too early to say where this tandem is in terms of ranking, they no doubt have the potential to be among the league’s best should the Suns front office keep them together.

“You guys can judge that,” Bledsoe said when asked if they are a top-5 backcourt. “As I said, we just go out and compete, our job is to play as hard as we can.

“We are not judging that.”

Warriors on deck

Tomorrow night’s game against the Golden State Warriors will be a good early season measuring stick for Bledsoe and Dragic as they face what is arguably the NBA’s most dynamic offensive back-court in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

“They are a great team with playoff experience and great shooters,” Hornacek said. “You can’t outscore that team if you don’t play any defense.”

Both teams average close to 103 points per game, but Bledsoe isn’t expecting to slow down for them.

“We can run, they will probably have to run with us,” Bledsoe said. “I know for a fact they will go small because we have stretch big’s that can beat people off the dribble.”

 

Tags: Eric Bledsoe Golden State Warriors Goran Dragic Jeff Hornacek Klay Thompson Phoenix Suns Sacramento Kings Stephen Curry

  • Foreveris2long

    These guys have exceeded all of my expectations. They are so much fun to watch. As I said the other night Lakers announcer James Worthy compared Dragic to James Harden and I think it is a fair comparison. He can run the point and yet score almost at will. I was at the gym this morning and Clipper fans are furious they let Bledsoe go for very little in return. After watching him and Dragic beat the Lakers the basketball fans in Southern Calif. were all singing Bledsoe’s praise this morning.

    These guys are exceptional ballers who seem to be elevating everyone’s performance and it seems they genuinely like each other. While their success is making it difficult for Goodwin to get more quality time, when they are playing this well, The Firm of EB and GD have to continue doing business in the Valley.

  • Fan in Chi Town

    We are a better team, record-wise than the overrated Warriors right now. I am confident that our backcourt can school their vaunted backcourt. It will be a fun game to watch tomorrow.

  • SHAZAM

    @ jeffrey…DUDE..youre too young to be this good..NO ONE else put in the effort to match stats w/ opinions..your quote “The Suns are a below-mediocre 5-6 when the two guards do not finish the game together. Dragic has missed three games and left two early to injury, while Bledsoe missed the six with his aforementioned shin injury. Phoenix is 8-3 when the two play the entire game and come out on the healthy side of things.”..is the best one on this subject..congrats vos you have added a new star writer.

  • Mike Lee

    Let’s not forget what happened the last time the Suns had two great PGs. Let’s not repeat the Johnson debacle and lose EITHER of these guys.

  • Jeremiah

    The Slash Brothers have been tearing it up so far this year and might only get better. Now they need to take it to the Splash Brothers tommorow and get the streak to 5 straight.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    I like that Jeremiah…the Slash Brothers….should be a great game tomorrow….er tonight.

    btw….haven’t heard much about Tom Chambers getting a DUI the other night in Scottsdale.

  • vtsunrise

    I have egg on my face, as does everyone else who predicted abysmal things from this team. I have painstakingly revisited my original 27-55 prediction and I have applied as precise an analysis as I am capable of. In past seasons, I’ve assessed whether the Suns have a 0%, 25%, 50% or 75% or 100% chance of winning each game based on their away record and an opposing team’s home record if the Suns are away, and vice versa if the Suns host a game. My original pre-season 27 win prediction was a quick and dirty W or L.

    I have elevated my precision by assessing decimal point chances of a Suns win game by game. For example, the next 4 games, which I had assessed all as losses, are now: .6 (60% chance of win vs. GSW), .4 vs. SAS, .4 @ DEN, .7 vs DAL.

    As a result, month by month, that adds 4 more wins than first forecast for December (including the 2 additional wins they already have vs. original forecast); 3 more wins in Jan, 3 more wins in Feb, 4 more wins in March, and 3 more in April. I was already 1 under entering December. That is 18 more wins in all.

    As a result, I am revising – THROWING AWAY – my initial 27-55 prediction and replacing it with a much more precise analysis based on actual home and away performance by all NBA teams 22+/- games into the season.

    My new prediction, based on more than 1/4 of the season’s results:

    Suns 45-37, or a .549 winning percentage.

    They will make the playoffs, probably in 8th place. Last season, Houston was 8th with a .549 record (45-37). In 2011-12, both Dallas and Utah made it in with a .545 record – 36-30 in the shortened season.

    45-37 won’t win a championship but it’s a far cry from 27-55, 20-62, or 16-66, as some had predicted. Props to the coaching staff. Props to a gutsy, hard-working and fun Suns team.

    With all the picks ahead and smart and savvy management, we can expect improvement in the seasons to come. I hope they keep their current backcourt. No reason in the world to part with either young, dynamic and improving player. The fact that they continue to gel only makes their ceiling less and less visible. The sky is the limit.

  • foreveris2long

    VT, man you are killing me with the numbers. You gave me a brain freeze thinking of math and statistics courses. However it was well prepared so it makes sense so good job. Yeah I washed the egg off my face after the first week of the season as I definitely was calling for 16-20 wins this season. Other than what Portland is doing I doubt I have ever been this impressed with any coaching staff in the NBA. I think the coaches have done more with less (unproven talent) than anyone in the league.

    Portland is having a great year but they have a Rookie of the Year (Lillard) and allstars (Aldridge and Dillard). They also have Batum who is a really good player. They have 3 above average players on their roster whereas all the Suns have from last season is an above average point guard in Dragic and backup point guard in Bledsoe and that is it. The rest of the roster is a bunch of role players. Incredible job by the coaches.

    Where is DBreezy?

  • Sunsn7

    Speaking of record forecasting revision, I had the Suns going 33-49. Now I see the Suns going something like 43-39.

    That’s not going to get us the “Manhandle” Randle or Paul Pierce II aka Jabari Parker. And lets not forget Wiggins either…

    Do something “McMiracle”!!

    ..oh and GO SUNS! GO COWBOYS! GO CARDINALS!

  • Sunsn7

    Oh yes, solid job Sanders! It’d be nice to see both these guys be able to put their respective egos aside, not only for the duration of this season, but in the foreseeable future as well. I just dont know, jury’s still out on that one.

  • http://none Go Phx

    Nice, VT. One of the best posts I’ve read. Good job. My thinking is similar but slightly higher, 47 wins and the 6 seed by tiebreaker. I don’t care as long as we are not 9th or 10th lol.

  • Scott

    @forever -

    Where is DBreezy? Perhaps he is gone with the wind. ;)

  • BCrayZ

    When the Lakers won the championship two years in a row (last team to do this before the Heat) & lost in game 7 of the finals the previous year, their success was not due to Kobe.

    Suns fans, for years, had feasted on sending Kobe to a fast playoff exit. What turned the tables? That first year the Lakers went all the way to the finals, they were struggling to stay above .500, when the mid-season acquisition of skilled big man Pau Gasol totally turned things around for the team.

    Suns have let the cat out of the bag. They are looking to make a major trade to land a star. Besides adding Barbosa, which I continue to hope for to further add to the chemistry of the team by reuniting “that killer bench unit”, I had just posed the possibility of trading the Morris twins, who play poor (no) defense & pass only to each other (also thereby keeping them together) plus a draft pick or two for Luol Deng & stood vehemently opposed to trading for that hound dog Melo. Then, I read the following article on “Ball Don’t Lie”. With all of the trade rumors involving Pau & even an aborted (NBA overruled) trade, he has not whined nor sulked & has made his public persona one of ultimate class. Free agency awaits Pau at the end of this year (in July.) Like our own Eric, he will have every motivation to have a career year. Well, we all know how much Mike Dumb Antoni alienates himself from his players. This article is further proof. Pau can sign where he wants after this year but I hope it is a reasonable 2 or at most 3 year deal with the Suns. Even if he leaves after this year, he could help us tons this year. Will not need to give away much because of his impending free agency & his age. Will most likely be able to keep our draft picks for another trade & send off the Morris twins to play for Mike No D. plus Okefore’s salary to make the numbers work. Make it so Ryan. But don’t forget The Brazilian Blur.

    MUST reunite “that killer bench unit.” Let’s go Suns!!!!

    Pau Gasol and Mike D’Antoni’s working relationship appears to be hitting a breaking point
    Kelly Dwyer By Kelly Dwyer
    December 13, 2013 1:55 PM
    Ball Don’t Lie
    View gallery

    .

    “Your mom spots up from 18 feet.” (Getty Images)

    By now, over a year into their working partnership together, you’d think that Pau Gasol and Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni would have pat answers on the ready when any member of the media asks them why Gasol has struggled so much since D’Antoni took over. That they would give each other faint praise from afar, chalk up the ongoing issues as just part of the learning process, make some reference to Gasol’s lingering injuries and the hectic NBA schedule, and try to pour some baking soda on that potential oil fire.

    Both player and coach didn’t exactly hurl a gas can at the situation on Thursday, but they did leave anyonereading Bill Plaschke’s discussion with the two in the Los Angeles Times wondering if this relationship will ever improve, and if the Lakers are best served attempting to find trade suitors for the big man.

    From the Times:

    In one corner of the Lakers’ practice gym stood Pau Gasol, his constant smile pulled tight.
    “The fact that I’m not getting the ball in the post affects directly my aggressiveness,” he said. “When I’m not getting the ball where I want to, where I’m most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity.”

    […]
    “This year hasn’t been ideal, certain things are not ideal for me, but that’s not going to change any time soon,” he said.
    So why hasn’t it been ideal?
    “What do you think?” he said. “I’m not going to say anything, but it’s easy to see. You see a guy with a certain skill set, where does it fit better, where it doesn’t.”
    When asked about D’Antoni’s sometimes pointed criticism of his toughness, Gasol shrugged.
    “I don’t pay attention. Mike is sometimes all over the place, I don’t give much credit to things like that,” he said.
    When asked if D’Antoni has ever discussed this criticism with him directly, for the first time in the interview, Gasol sounded irked.
    “Nope, zero. Nope, zero,” he said. “Like I said, it’s not ideal, but it is what it is.”
    It says quite a bit that Plaschke was able to get Gasol to open up so freely, but it also says quite a bit that Plaschke (and, more specifically, this Laker situation) was able to get the articulate and patient 7-footer to sound both irked and without words while offering an “it is what it is” platitude. This frustration has managed to both frustrate and flummox Pau Gasol, who eats koans for breakfast and sips poetry during timeouts. That’s significant.

    D’Antoni is just as frustrated, and responded to Gasol’s comments with this aside:

    “I can’t lie to him… Our numbers tell us the worst thing we do is post up,” he said.
    D’Antoni’s not wrong. Not only has Pau had a poor year from the post, but each of the Lakers’ post-up players have performed poorly down there. And generally, because most post-up players in the modern game are limited offensively, post-up numbers usually aren’t all that great.

    That’s not the point here. The point is to go inside-out, and create movement with an initial look inside that leads to myriad developing options after movement and quick decision-making is employed. A post-up doesn’t have to be an end-all, but at times Gasol’s rare post up opportunities are treated like token maneuvers, like Phil Jackson and Larry Brown symbolically giving Bill Cartwright or Ben Wallace the first shot of the game as a nod and pre-emptive “thank you” to the next 40 minutes they’ll spend banging away from the ball.

    So for the scads of journalists and fans that have been pointing out how poor the team’s numbers are in the post, or Gasol’s personal shooting percentages down there … stop.

    That’s not the function of the exercise. The point is to create something greater than the sum of the collective parts, and the Lakers have not been able to pull that off during D’Antoni’s tenure. And he’s certainly wasting the efforts and remaining years of perhaps the league’s most talented big man along the way.

    D’Antoni’s take? Pau needs to play harder. From Friday’s shootaround, as quoted by Mark Medina at Inside the Lakers:

    “It’s also a nice excuse not to play hard,” D’Antoni said. “That’s a classic, ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.’ Well, you don’t have trouble getting up to the paystub line. You know what you need to do to get your check. You know what to do. They will. They’ll figure it out.”
    “That’s one thing. They don’t want to do it that way. I understand that. That’s when you have to accept it or not. But there’s no reason not to play hard.”
    Gasol, by his own lofty standards, is having an up and down year while in and out of D’Antoni’s sights with the Lakers. A career 51 percent shooter, Pau is down to 41.7 percent from the field. As a result of the Lakers’ pace, Kobe Bryant’s absence and those token nods I referenced earlier, Gasol is shooting more per minute than he has in his entire NBA career, though his free throw attempts per minute have stayed the same. His rebounding and assist percentages, however, have been fantastic.

    It’s the shooting, mainly. A Pau shooting 41 percent is not a Pau at all.

    This is why the Lakers could entertain thoughts of a trade, even if they’re not successful in scoring assets in return for Gasol at age 33. If this were 2005, Gasol’s massive expiring contract and skillset even in his early 30s would be a huge draw, but teams have been hesitant to pull the trigger for such deals over the last few years – even if Gasol’s $19.3 million only added a million or two to a team’s payroll. Because so many teams are close to or already paying the luxury tax, swapping in giant contracts (even in their final year) is a tougher sell to owners.

    On top of that, teams might be loath to attempt to aid the free spending Lakers with their depth problems by potentially sending Los Angeles a point guard or outside shooter in return for what could be just half a year of Gasol. Because he’s a free agent this summer, coming off of two championships and tens of millions of dollars in his past, Gasol is going to go for the best situation first, and the heavy payday second in his free agent search this summer. Acquiring the ability to go over your cap to re-sign him may not be as big a sell as it is with other free agents.

    This is why busting out hypothetical trades is pointless. We don’t know if Kobe Bryant will utilize his significant sway to keep him in Los Angeles from now until July, we don’t know what Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak is thinking in-season, and there are just too many disparate influences guiding the other 29 teams to try and anticipate such a move.

  • foreveris2long

    Scott, Man that is funny stuff. Just my opinion but I say no to P. Gasol acquisition because he is not a good defender of the low post. He gets punked down there quite a bit. It was even a problem when Phil Jackson was the coach. Now he is older and slower and still not tough down there. I would rather Jordan Hill than Gasol.

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  • Sunsn7

    F*** no to Gasol.

    NO RETREADS!!