PHOENIX — As steady as he is with a basketball in his hand and a defender in his face, point guard Eric Bledsoe was just as steady with a microphone — several microphones, in fact — in his face all trying to capture the moment he professed his commitment to the team that gave him the chance to be a starter in the NBA.
“I’m just going into the summer, getting 100 percent healthy and just enjoy my family,” he said.
Did he enjoy his first season with the Phoenix Suns?
“It was great. With the guys, the coaching staff and the organization, it was great,” he said.
Could he see himself setting roots down in the Valley?
“Like I said, I’m going into the summer, enjoy my family,” he said. “Whatever happens next year, it happens.”
And on and on it went for several more questions, Bledsoe asked repeatedly about his future with the Suns and not once did he waver in his answer.
“I’m just going into this summer focused, like I started off last summer; getting better every game and getting 100 percent healthy,” he said after the team met for one last time as a group on Thursday.
Bledsoe is a restricted free agent, meaning any offer he might agree to with one of the other 29 teams come July, can be matched by the Suns, which they have given every indication is exactly what they plan to do.
“He can’t go anywhere,” said a smiling head coach Jeff Hornacek recently.
Bledsoe, 24, enjoyed enormous success, setting career highs in points (17.7), rebounds (4.7) and assists (5.5) this season, his first as a full-time starter.
“It’s definitely fun and exciting to prove a lot of people wrong,” he said. “Everybody had a lot of doubts in me coming into the season, me and Goran (Dragic) playing together, me by myself running a team. It definitely put the icing on the cake for me to go out there and show what I can do every night.”
And show what might have been.
The Suns (48-34) missed the playoffs by one game, and that’s with Bledsoe missing nearly half the season. He sat out six games in late November because of a bruised left shin and then his left knee, which ultimately required surgery on January 10, cost him 33 games.
In between, he and Dragic proved that two point guards sharing the same backcourt can work, and work quite well. The Suns were 23-11 in games they started.
“It was our first season and we already played so good together so I think next season — hopefully he’s going to stay here…and try to raise that bar even higher,” said Dragic, adding he’s talked to Bledsoe several times about staying. “We’re always joking around. We’re always talking that, ‘hey, you’re going to stay here and you better stay here; if not, we’re going to hunt you down.”
It won’t need to come to do that, according to Ish Smith. Bledsoe, while he may not have said so publicly, wants to remain with the Suns.
“From my aspects,” Smith said, “and talking to him on the plane — he sits right beside me, he wants to be back. He likes it here and so obviously all of you guys will be excited to have him back and I know I will be.”