Eric Bledsoe is like any other NBA player dealing with an injury, except for one pretty important detail: He’s set to become a free agent at the end of this season.
Acquired by the Phoenix Suns during the offseason, the 24-year-old has stepped up as a starter, averaging 18 points, 5.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game in his first season as a starter.
His skill obvious, questions about his durability are valid, especially now that he’s undergone surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee for a second time in 27 months.
The team has expressed hope that Bledsoe will be able to return at some point this season, but that does not mean he will.
Is it possible his impending free agency will play a role in his recovery? Yes, but the Suns are confident there’s no reason to distrust their star or his agents’ intentions.
“It’s a great question and we’re very cognizant of it,” Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby told Bickley with Marotta Thursday. “We would treat any player in the same circumstances the way we will treat Eric.
“But, I understood having been on both sides of the table, I understand the thought process from the player’s side, from the player’s rep’s side as well as from our side.”
Babby, a former agent, said all the team can do is “be transparent,” adding that there is a good relationship between the team and Bledsoe’s camp.
While the Suns are hoping to make a playoff push — and Bledsoe would certainly help the cause — no one wants to rush him back at the expense of his long-term health, which Babby said comes first and foremost.
“We talk through the issues with them,” Babby said of Bledsoe’s representatives. “Whether they’re medical issues or other issues and be as supportive as we can (while) understanding they have to protect his interests, we have to protect our interests.
“But you can do it in a cooperative, professional way.”
Originally selected with the 18th pick in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft, Bledsoe has never completed a season without missing a game. However, this is the first time he’s missing extended action, so it’s not as if he is prone to injury.
But given the type of contract he is expected to receive over the summer and his level of importance to what the Suns are doing, both sides are going to be extra careful going forward.
Babby said part of that was making team doctor Thomas Carter available to Bledsoe to perform the surgery, making sure everyone was comfortable and on the same page with all that was happening.
“And persuading them that we were sincere and genuine in that,” he added. “That we want what’s in Eric’s best interest because that coincides with what’s in our best interests.”
He’s confident they have done just that and avoided what could have been a potentially damaging situation.
“It had the potential, always, to go off the track, but I think both sides handled it in a way that, if anything, it generated greater trust and respect for each other.”