A day after a report indicated the Phoenix Suns and Eric Bledsoe‘s camp are still involved in free agency negotiations, we hear that could be close to being over with. A source to CSN Northwest’s Chris Haynes says that the team’s and free agent’s “relationship is on the express lane to being ruined.”
However, the effort by the Suns to undermine Bledsoe’s market is what has angered Bledsoe and his reps and led to a standoff in which the relationship is now on the verge of being irreparable, we’re told.
Other teams that are/were in the process of dealing with their own restricted free agents (Utah, Detroit, Houston) chose not to use the public scare tactics this summer, another factor that has Bledsoe feeling chilly at the thought of a return to the desert, sources say.
If Bledsoe’s camp feels that it’s being treated unfairly, that’s too bad. Like the Suns, Utah indeed sent out signals – through the media rather than to the media – to dissuade teams from matching Gordon Hayward, and the Detroit Pistons likewise have been somewhat clear about Greg Monroe being a part of their future. The Rockets intended to match Chandler Parsons‘ deal before irking him by deciding against it to keep searching for a third star.
In a report from Basketball Insiders on Monday, it seemed that Phoenix was even willing to edge a little past the $12 million annual salary offer to Bledsoe that they’re stuck at right now. But according to Haynes’ source, Bledsoe and agent Rich Paul aren’t ready to take anything less than a max deal.
Paul Coro put this all into perspective in his story from today. As exciting, impactful and unique as Bledsoe’s game is, he’s just one of many talented players at the deepest position in the NBA. It’s the same reason why Goran Dragic made the All-NBA Third Team but wasn’t an All-Star.
Nine other point guards averaged at least as many points per game as Bledsoe last season. Twenty-four point guards averaged more assists. All of them played more games.
Eleven teams have an All-Star point guard. Another 12 to 14 teams arguably are set at the position and have either an established point guard, one on the rise or the point-guard market cornered (see Phoenix).
The reality, as we and everyone else have stressed, is that a four-year, $48 million contract is the set market price at this moment. No other team felt comfortable enough to even take a swing at landing Bledsoe, and if his camp is upset that Phoenix was open about matching, there’s not much the Suns can do or should do. In four NBA seasons, Bledsoe hasn’t played more than 1,841 total minutes. That was done his rookie season and for comparison’s sake, Miles Plumlee played 1,964 this year. In two of his four seasons, Bledsoe has missed half of the games – he played in 40 games in the 66-game lockout year of 2011-12 but missed what would have been the beginning of the season anyway with his first knee injury.
While general manager Ryan McDonough did once say that teams would be wasting their time by sending an offer sheet Bledsoe’s way, that’s not playing hard-ball. If Lon Babby did say the franchise would be “foolhardy” not to take advantage of restricted free agency, that’s not any hint the Suns would be stubborn, either. It’s playing by the rules.
And the Suns still have the power here, that after offering Bledsoe a pretty darn good deal. Even if talks completely break down, McDonough will then be charged with digging up interest for Bledsoe – something Bledsoe’s camp has thus far failed do this offseason on its own – and dangling a still very attractive player in front of other teams’ noses, hoping for a sign-and-trade.
It would appear that today’s report of fracturing relationship is coming from Bledsoe’s camp. Maybe it’s a negotiating tactic to make the Suns sweat, or maybe it’s how Bledsoe’s people really feel. Whatever the case may be, there’s still clearly a gulf in how much Bledsoe believes he’s worth and the value placed on him by NBA teams.