PHOENIX, Ariz. — The Suns insisted, no matter how many times they were asked, it was never a matter of if point guard Eric Bledsoe would return, but when the injured starter would return this season.
Well, the “when” is soon — as in as soon as the team returns from its upcoming road trip.
“Probably Wednesday, our next home game. So I’m looking forward to that day,” said Bledsoe on Saturday, who has been sidelined since undergoing right knee surgery on January 10.
“Doctor cleared me to play, so I’m ready to go.”
It’s possible, though unlikely, he even returns before then.
“You like to bring guys (back) at home, so (Wednesday vs. Cleveland) might be a good game to, if he can go, play that game,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said.
The Suns, 36-25, play away from US Airways Center the next two games — at Golden State on Sunday and at the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday. At the moment, the Suns sit seventh in the Western Conference, two games behind the Warriors (39-24) and just a few percentage points ahead of the Dallas Mavericks.
Phoenix has beaten the Warriors twice at home, but lost the lone one road matchup so far — suffering their worst defeat of the season, 115-86 on December 27.
“You look at the teams that are battling for those last (playoff) spots,” Hornacek said. “You’re trying to win every game and they’re all important. Obviously, with it being a possible tie-breaker game, (a win) could help us.”
Bledsoe has not played in since the calendar turned over to 2014.
He started scrimmaging five-on-five full court in practice a week ago, and while he’s experienced no pain or swelling in the knee, his conditioning could be somewhat of an issue, at least initially.
“That’s the tough part,” said Bledsoe, though he insisted he will not play cautiously. “I’m full throttle. When I come back, I’m going to stay aggressive — stay in that mindset I had to start the season.”
With him, the Suns went 16-8 while he averaged career-highs in points (18.0), rebounds (4.3) and assists (5.8) before he got hurt.
They’ve since won 20 of 37 without him.
“They’ve been winning. That’s all that matters,” he said when he asked about his role. “Whatever position (Hornacek) wants me to be in, I’m going to come in and play.”
Bledsoe likely will come off the bench for a game or two before being reinserted into the starting lineup.
He said he has enjoyed his spectator status: Watching Goran Dragic and Gerald Green has “been a doozy,” he said, but now he’s anxious to return and help his teammates make a final push for the playoffs.
“I knew they weren’t going to let off the pedal when I went down. I knew they were going to keep coming, because this team has a lot of fight and we play hard every night,” Bledsoe added.