PHOENIX — As the Suns trickled out of the U.S. Airways Center on Thursday with bags full of whatever was left in their lockers, the same themes popped up.
Jeff Hornacek should be coach of the year.
The season was a success in one way and disappointing in another.
Individually, nearly every player on Phoenix’s roster could see 2013-14 as a season of improvement.
The future is bright.
The biggest question about the future is of course Eric Bledsoe, a restricted free agent who could certainly earn a max contract. On Phoenix airwaves earlier in the day, general manager Ryan McDonough told Burns and Gambo that “it’d be a waste of time for another team to throw an offer at him and tie up their cap space while other free agents are going off the board. But you never know; it only takes one.”
Following his exit interview with the team, Bledsoe steered clear of commenting on his future or whether he wanted to remain in Phoenix.
“Like I said, I’m going into this summer just working hard, getting better for next year, enjoying my family,” he said, about six times.
“I’m just going into the summer getting 100 percent healthy and just doing my thing,” he added. “It was great. The guys, the coaching staff, the organization, it was great.”
The 24-year-old point guard did say it meant something that McDonough and the front office have been strong supporters of his. His relationship with fellow point guard Goran Dragic doesn’t seem to be something to keep him from re-signing with the Suns. And no matter what the case is, Bledsoe’s future is less in his hands and more in those of the Suns front office.
Phoenix can match an offer from any other team, plus they can even negotiate a five-year deal since they hold his Bird Rights.
McDonough of course will be publicly adamant that other teams shouldn’t bother thinking about signing Bledsoe. Signing Bledsoe to an offer sheet would tie up a sizable chunk of any team’s cap space until the Suns make their decision, and the good news is that squads with the cash to make a free agent splash with Bledsoe — the Lakers, for example — might first send their recruiting messages to other free agents like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, assuming they opt out of their respective deals.
Bledsoe proved he fit with the Suns, and it’s hard to imagine he’s seriously unhappy. And worst case, Phoenix has control of the situation. If the front office truly doesn’t want to pay a certain amount, it can at least work out a sign-and-trade to get something in return.
Within the Suns locker room, the recruiting process has been there all year long.
“We always are joking around and always talking, ‘Are you going to stay here? You better stay here or we’re going to hunt you down and try to bring you back,’” Dragic said of his backcourt mate. “In the end, it’s his decision.”
Or really, it’s on the Suns to decide Bledsoe’s value and act accordingly.