It’s mid-August. Suns owner Robert Sarver told The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro that free agent Eric Bledsoe hasn’t spoken with the team in four months, meaning the last time he talked to with Phoenix officials likely came during his exit interview in mid-April.
CSN Northwest Chris Haynes and ESPN’s Chris Broussard have both reported that Bledsoe’s relationship with Phoenix is on thin ice, but Sarver made it more clear how disconnected Bledsoe has been during any negotiations.
“Maybe that’s just posturing and negotiating,” Sarver told Coro of the reports. “We haven’t heard from the guy in four months, so I couldn’t tell you. I do know that when he played here, he felt good about the organization, his coaching staff and his teammates at the end of the season. We had the same feelings toward him.”
Bledsoe’s exit interview with the Phoenix media was nearly as tight-lipped. He refused to talk about his free agency, only vowing to get better over the summer and enjoy his family.
“It was great,” Bledsoe added of his one year as a Sun. “The guys, the coaching staff, the organization, it was great.”
What’s really going on? While the team may not have spoken to Bledsoe, Phoenix has apparently been in contact with Bledsoe’s agent, Rich Paul, and that much was reported during the Suns’ chase of LeBron James. Sarver even said on the radio a week ago that he has a “good” relationship with Bledsoe’s agent. In that segment with the Burns and Gambo show, Sarver also hinted toward Coro’s most recent report — that Bledsoe himself hadn’t been involved in his free agency process.
Now, this throwaway line from Sarver’s radio interview becomes a little more clear.
“It’s not necessarily us to determine what he thinks is fair; it’s him to determine that.”
So far, it’s to-be-determined.
Bledsoe’s silence is the same tactic that James, also a Paul client, used to some degree in his free agency decision. It took Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert flying to South Florida on a not-so-private jet to convince James to return to Cleveland.
Though the circumstances appear odd from an outside perspective, Bledsoe’s long-winding free agency isn’t completely uncommon. Last summer, Nikola Pekovic of the Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t sign until August 14.
Greg Monroe is right with Bledsoe this year. He and the Detroit Pistons remain far apart and there are likewise assumed tensions in that situation. Broussard tweeted this week that Bledsoe was eyeing a qualifying offer, and similar reports have Monroe looking at the same deal. But the chances of them taking the QO are extremely low.
Tom Ziller of SB Nation strongly attacked the Monroe report from today. There aren’t very many good things that could come out of taking the qualifying offer, especially for a player that can make $12 million annually. Same goes for Bledsoe. Only 17 players since 1995 have taken qualifying offers, though Coro notes the most recent was Paul’s client, Kevin Seraphin. Look at the list of players who have taken the qualifying offer, and it’s clear Bledsoe and Monroe aren’t in the same hemisphere in terms of value.
Bledsoe can take the $3.7 million by Oct. 1, and that means there’s still a month and a half to play hardball with Phoenix. If he did take the offer, it would allow him to play next year and become an unrestricted free agent. But again, the Suns would be able to offer him the most money, and that would only be an issue if he excelled. The guard could instead accept the four-year, $48 million that is reportedly on the table. Or he could negotiate a restructured deal.
At this point, it seems like the Suns would simply feel good by talking to the free agent guard and determining what’s running through his mind.