Without the context of months of tireless negotiations, the five-year, $70 million deal Eric Bledsoe signed to stay with the Phoenix Suns this week seems fairly simple.
A talented young star should be locked down for the long term to be a cornerstone for an improving team that is already overflowing with potential.
This negotiation was not clear-cut though, as Bledsoe and the Suns jostled for position over salary and number of years for over a year.
Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby was a guest Friday on Doug & Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, and he is confident that despite the length of time put into finalizing the deal, both Bledsoe and the Suns came out with exactly what they wanted.
“At the end of the day, what matters is that Eric’s in a good place,” Babby said. “We are in a great place with him, and he’g going to be a Phoenix Sun for a long, long time. That’s the most important thing and it’s a great outcome for us, and I think for him as well.”
With earlier reports that the team was offering a four-year deal worth $48 million, it might seem like the Suns lost some ground in the final contract. But according to Babby, the years on the deal were always much more important to Phoenix than the salary.
“At the end of the day, we wanted to have Eric for five years,” said Babby. “The longer we had him, the better off we thought we would be. He’s young and he’s going to be a productive and we know what’s going to be happening with the salary cap over the next couple years, and we felt like the longer, the better.”
Bledsoe missed 39 games last season due to injuries, a theme that Phoenix is optimistic won’t continue as the guard plays out his contract.
“We know his medical situation better than anybody and I’m not going to say it’s without risk,” said Babby. “There’s risk with every player, and hopefully it’ll turn out to be a good risk. But we’re confident he’s going to be fine.”
As the two sides waded through negotiations and Bledsoe talked with other teams, concern grew that the 24-year-old was not completely committed to the city and the organization. This was apparently not an issue at any point for the Suns, as they saw a player who was happy to play in Phoenix.
Babby claimed that before any deal was signed, he, team owner Robert Sarver, and general manager Ryan McDonough had a meeting with Bledsoe to make sure Phoenix was where he wanted to be for the long-term.
“We were more than satisfied that not only did he want to be here, but he always wanted to be here and that was our impression in knowing him,” said Babby. “He’s not the most gregarious, outgoing guy, we all know that, but within that personality, I think he is motivated and loves being in Phoenix.”
Bledsoe is not the only burgeoning, high-profile player in Phoenix’s backcourt.
Point guard Goran Dragic earned the Most Improved Player award in 2014 and used a breakout season to put himself in the conversation as one of the best young floor generals in the NBA.
Dragic has one year left on his four-year, $30 million deal before he has a player-option in 2015, and the Suns are attempting to extend his deal beforehand. After Bledsoe’s contract was signed, it may seem like there is less room to extend Dragic, but Babby doesn’t see Wednesday’s deal having an impact on their future plans with the guard.
“We have talked to Goran already about the impact of this contract, or the fact that this contract will not have any impact in our dealings with him going forward and our desire to have him as a Phoenix Sun going forward,” Babby said. “He understands that and we feel confident that he wants to here.”