PHOENIX — As painful as the loss to Cleveland was — and let’s be honest, it was a game the Suns could not afford to lose — there was some good news, at least.
Eric Bledsoe is back.
His return may not have sparked a Suns (36-28) victory, but after logging his first game minutes of 2014, he reported no issues and no pain in his surgically repaired right knee the next day.
“Felt pretty good. As far as playing how many minutes I played — practice is definitely not like the game — I feel a little bit sore,” he said after practice on Thursday. “Just normal soreness; I-haven’t-played-in-awhile soreness.”
That was to be expected.
Bledsoe had not played since Dec. 30, missing the past 33 games.
“You’re playing at a different level when you play in a game. It’s harder. You’re running a little faster than in practices,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He missed some of his easier shots. He missed a couple of layups. His jump shot, three-pointers, that’s probably the hardest thing to get back after being off so long.
“For the first part you saw the explosiveness was still there. He had some of those great drives to the basket.”
Coming off the bench with 7:39 to play in the first quarter, Bledsoe immediately went to work. In the first 92 seconds he was on the floor, he found Miles Plumlee wide open for a dunk, scored on a driving layup and set up Channing Frye for a three.
Bledsoe finished with 15 points, a game-high nine assists, three rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes.
“I was prepared and ready for anything Coach threw at me,” he said. “It was just up to me to go out there and play like I’ve been playing.”
His shot will come — he missed 11-of-16 attempts including five of six three-pointers — but his energy and effort may speed up the timetable for a return to the starting lineup.
“That’s under debate,” Hornacek said. “The way we’ve started (out slow in) the first quarters, it’s been seven, eight games now, maybe for no other reason just to try to change that up a little bit we may end up starting him (at Boston on Friday). Coaches will talk about it a little bit more and see if that’s what we should do.”
The Suns are 15-7 in games Bledsoe starts.
“Eric was a huge part of our success,” Goran Dragic said. “Of course we need extra energy and I think so he can give us that.”