Eric Bledsoe’s return brings hope

Eric Bledsoe is coming back at the perfect time. Sure the Suns would have loved to have their star guard return sooner, but was a recovering Bledsoe really going to help the Suns fair better in their last four games? I think not. A win over the Thunder was a better haul from those four matchups than most expected the Suns to get. And now those games are behind the team, and it’s time to look forward.

Phoenix currently sits in ninth with Minnesota 4.5 games behind and Memphis a half game ahead. Bledsoe has targeted Wednesday at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers as his return game. That matchup is the first in a stretch of 11 winnable games for the Suns. Between now and the end of the month, Phoenix will not face a single Western Conference playoff contender. They will play seven teams with losing records, and nine of their 11 opponents are in the East. Tempering the excitement about this stretch is the fact that seven of the 11 games are on the road. Phoenix will also have two tough road back-to-backs, Toronto-to-Brooklyn and Minnesota-to-Atlanta.

When I handicapped the playoff race at the All-Star break, I identified 14 games over .500 as the Suns’ target for making the postseason. That would put them at 48-34 for the year. Even in the exceedingly tough West, the Suns would be near locks to make the playoffs with 48 wins. If the Suns can go 8-3 the rest of this month that will put their record at 44-30, meaning they’d only need to go 4-4 in their brutal close to the season in April. 8-3 is a tall order for the Suns in their next 11, but it’s doable. Phoenix has gotten that hot for stretches this year. If I were a betting man, I’d say the Suns have one more winning streak left in the tank.

Though Bledsoe has said he intends to comeback “full throttle”, there will be an inevitable adjustment period while he recovers his legs, and the team adjusts to his presence in the lineup. Gerald Green has really excelled in Bledsoe’s presence, and it’s unclear how he will respond if or when he returns to a reserve role. It’s also unclear if Coach Jeff Hornacek intends to return Bledsoe to the starting lineup or bring him off the bench for the entire stretch run.

Despite the uncertainty that will accompany Bledsoe’s return, he is the oasis in the desert for Phoenix. The Suns are running out of gas. Tonight’s loss to the Clippers is proof. Though they battled back admirably, the Suns are definitely missing something. They need Bledsoe’s strength, energy, and toughness to lift them up and keep them in the playoff hunt. So no matter what temporary obstacles may arrive as the Suns reintegrate him, the benefits of having Bledsoe far outweigh any risks.

This stretch will ultimately define the Suns’ season. For as unexpectedly great as Phoenix has been this year, missing the playoffs will mean all of their well-deserved hype was for not. If the Suns finish in ninth, they’ll ultimately be remembered as one of the rare 45 or 46 win teams that missed the playoffs, not the endearing, surprising, and tough young team that delighted the league and its fans all season. The blessing for Phoenix is that they’ll get to fight for their playoff lives with their full compliment of players.

It’s going to be a very entertaining 19-game battle.

Tags: Eric Bledsoe Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Analysis

  • bill_thomas

    KOBE=SCRUB. Make it happen, Bled !!!!!!!!!!!

  • bill_thomas

    How much would it cost to get a decent prostitute to service Adam Silver????

    A LOT OF MONEY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ellensburgbballfan

    horrible call from the refs on that pj tucker and blake griffin altercation

    Plumlee had his best game in a long time with 12 points and 9 boards

    Len should have gotten more than 3 whole minutes and goodwin more than 5

    oh well there is always next year for player development

  • bill_thomas

    They would have to wash hm in rubbing alcohol first.

    Right down to the head of his you-know-what.

  • bill_thomas

    And take those damned glasses off of him, they tend to dishonestly humanize him.

  • Dutch Sun fan

    Bledsoe back! Let’s go Suns. This song reminds me of the Suns this season, enjoy:

  • Lon Babby

    I just want it to be known I am still here another season. If this VP of Basketball job doesn’t extend beyond 2015, I’ll be working for corned beef sandwiches.

    I noticed Adam Silver’s name mentioned. Shalom to your family sir. If you need a cost cutting VP, I can definitely be of assistance.

  • Rengaw

    Yes, we do need Bledsoe back. But just as important, we need Plumlee back. He had some good moments against the Clippers. With Bledsoe’s added defensive pressure on the point guard and Plumlee returning to early season form, that would really give a boost to this team.
    If we could only get some good defense from the power forward position……Frye…no………Markieff…..sometimes……..actually Tucker, even though he is undersized, does a good job.

    Speaking of getting jobbed, that acting show Blake Griffin put on with his wrestling body slam of Tucker was a terrible call by the refs. Griffin is a dirty player….I see him pull that shit all the time and get away with it.

    You watch. Sometime in the future he going to pull that crap with Markieff and Markieff (who has a short fuse anyway) along with his tag team partner, Marcus, is going to make Blake wish he was back in Oklahoma.

  • CarlyJoni

    Suns have little to no cushion as the rest of the season unfolds. Memphis has a much better schedule and a higher probability of winning more games with 10 against teams with losing records. Even if they lose their last game against the Suns in Phoenix, they still have the tiebreak. Having Bledsoe back will be a shot in the arm for sure. No mistakes from now on. Go Suns!

  • DZ

    Between Phoenix, Memphis and Dallas, I think Dallas has the most difficult remaining schedule. If the Suns make the playoffs, the more likely scenario would be for both the Sans and the Griz to pass Dallas leaving them the odd man/team out.

  • john


    I would tend to agree with that if Dallas didn’t have Dirk. I can’t bet against Dirk in that situation.

    If I HAD to put money on it, I’d say the Suns are the odd team out, but I’m hoping it ends up being Memphis. It’s gonna be a fun race, that’s for sure!

  • DZ

    @john – I agree about Dirk. I was just saying that IF the Suns make the playoffs, that was more likely than them catching and passing the Griz. Of course if any of the three teams have key players that miss even 2-3 games with an injury, that could change the odds a lot with so few games left.

  • john

    Ah, I misread your original comment. I’m in complete agreement with you.

  • DZ

    And – looking on the bright side – even if the Suns do miss the playoffs this year, maybe this will be our lucky year with the lottery ping-pong balls and we will get one of the top 3 draft picks. We would be doubly lucky if that happened because that would push Minnesota back in the #14 spot which would mean that pick would also go to the Suns.

    Whatever happens, I still love this team. I was hoping that they might win 30-35 games this season before the season began! They have exceeded my expectations and I think that they have a core that can be a serious contender in the next 2-3 years with some luck in the draft and the free agent market.

  • JK

    Suns NEED to make the playoffs this year. The experience will not only help develop our players further but it will also show soon-to-be free agents that we can be competitive in the rough Western conference, which is a testament to Hornacek’s coaching above all else.