Eric Bledsoe's knee injury requires surgery

Bledsoe1The Phoenix Suns’ optimism for improvements coming as an eastern road swing continues is all but shot. In fact, a major reinforcement won’t be coming for a while.

ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that guard Eric Bledsoe’s knee injury will require surgery to repair cartilage damage, and the team expects to find meniscus damage. Stein adds that the severity of the issue, which was originally called a knee sprain, won’t be known until Bledsoe sees a surgeon.

The 24-year-old guard is out indefinitely.

What transpired following Bledsoe’s injury suffered on Dec. 30 in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers alluded to the worst-case scenario.

Bledsoe was pulled just prior to the tip-off of a Jan. 2 home game against the Memphis Grizzlies, and the Suns didn’t update his status until two days later, when they said it would be at least another week before he was reexamined. In the interim, Phoenix signed former backup combo guard Leandro Barbosa to a 10-day contract. While the signing could have been viewed as a move to make a playoff push — Barbosa debuted on Wednesday and took Archie Goodwin’s rotation spot — it also marked the possibility the Suns prepared for being without Bledsoe for longer than they initially anticipated.

Bledsoe is averaging 18 points, 5.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. Since his absence, the Suns’ lack of offensive options have become quite obvious in splitting four games.

Goran Dragic will, like last year, have the pressure upon him to produce 25 points a night. As the 104-103 win against the Minnesota Timberwolves showed, Phoenix will have trouble hitting the 100-point mark even if Channing Frye is scoring in the 20s, and Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee are contributing offensively.

With Bledsoe out for the foreseeable future, the win against the Timberwolves was all the more important. The Suns sit 4.5 games ahead of Minnesota in the playoff race and currently cling to the seventh spot. The playoff race might become irrelevant if Bledsoe is out for even a month.

As good as Dragic has been, he needed Bledsoe. And it likely would’ve been the same story if the script was flipped on the two talented point guards. The success of them as a duo is the major reason why the Suns are overachieving, after all.

The worst-case scenario — a torn meniscus — puts the Suns in a bind beyond 2013-14. General manager Ryan McDonough has gone on the record in saying Phoenix would do everything in its power to match offers for Bledsoe, who is a restricted free agent this summer. Though it could hurt the market for Bledsoe, a serious knee injury will put the Suns in the same bind as other teams.

Do they trust Bledsoe will be able to handle the rigors of a whole season? Will his future be full of ups and downs similar to two of the NBA’s other ultra-athletic guards, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, who have suffered through similar knee issues?

No matter if Bledsoe is out another few weeks or the rest of the year, the Suns future just got a lot more complicated.

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