Phoenix Suns majority owner Robert Sarver made an impromptu call into the Burns & Gambo show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday evening to clear some of the air about the team’s relationship with restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe.
Phoenix reportedly offered the combo guard a four-year, $48 million deal in the middle of July, while the four-year pro apparently was looking for a maximum offer of five years and $80 million.
Sarver was asked Friday if he thought Phoenix’s initial offer was fair.
“We think it’s a fair offer. I think you could argue, you know, I mean some would say it’s maybe a little high; some would say it’s low,” the owner said. “What’s fair is important to us, and also important to him — him and his agent. It’s not necessarily us to determine what he thinks is fair; it’s him to determine that.”
Sarver said he believes Bledsoe has talked with other teams, but as of Friday, the guard has yet to sign an offer sheet with anybody. Sarver added he doesn’t know if another team has made an offer, but he knows for sure that Bledsoe hasn’t signed anything yet.
The owner also said that he’s not concerned, at this point, about if the team’s relationship with Bledsoe is becoming strained.
“We’re a professional organization, and he’s a professional player,” he said. “And he’s a high-character guy. And his agent (Rich Paul), whose main client LeBron (James), is the utmost competitor and professional.
“As an organization, we do our 100 percent best to get behind the player and support him as best as possible. And what professional players do, regardless of how their contract works out, when it’s time to play, they play as hard as they can — for themselves, their teammates and for the organization. So what takes place before a contract is signed usually doesn’t have a lot of bearing on what takes place after a contract is signed — when you have a high-character athlete and a high-quality organization.”
Sarver then commented on the team’s impression with Bledsoe through his first season in the Valley, in which he scored 17.7 points and added 5.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds per contest in 43 appearances.
“We like Eric a lot, and I think Eric did well with our organization last year. And I think he enjoys his teammates and his coaches and his organization. And so, from a basketball standpoint, I think it’s a good relationship.”
Sarver added that the team didn’t try to lowball Bledsoe in their first offer to him because of his restricted status.
“We think we gave him a fair offer, and (we would) be more than happy to sit down with him and continue to negotiate it. We’re happy to do that,” he said.
A Portland Trail Blazers insider recently reported several league sources saying the Suns’ relationship with the 6-foot-1 guard is on the verge of being irreparably damaged, but Sarver refused to agree with that forecast.
“I think Eric’s a great guy. And he’ll be happy here when he gets here, whether that’s for one year or for four years or five years,” he said. “I think his agent’s trying to do the best job he can, too. And I have a pretty good relationship with his agent. It’s just part of the process. I wish it would have been resolved earlier, but it is what it is.”
The 10-year Suns owner was also asked if he thinks people from Bledsoe’s camp are fueling some of the drama surrounding the contract negotiations. Sarver said it’s a possibility, but that he’s not bothered by it either way.
“I think probably so, but I don’t know that that really, at the end of the day, will have any impact on the relationship with Eric and the organization or even with his agent and his organization,” he said. “I just think that’s just how a lot of this stuff is done. I mean there’s so (many) smokescreens … That part of it doesn’t bother me.”
Sarver also refused to agree with the notion that Bledsoe’s agent is inexperienced and over his head.
In closing, the owner also tried to put the whole negotiations process into perspective.
“One thing fans have got to remember is: Players, their careers are very short,” he said. “And at any given moment, they could be a lot shorter. You don’t know. And so, they’re trying to maximize what they can make. They’re not like movie stars where they can go cut a box office hit when they’re 45 or 55 years old like John (Gambadoro) is. They want to maximize what they can make. And that’s OK.”