PHOENIX — The process might not have been as smooth as all the parties involved would have liked, but Eric Bledsoe is back in a Phoenix Suns uniform.
Phoenix owner Robert Sarver, president of basketball operations Lon Babby and general manager Ryan McDonough — along with Bledsoe’s agent, Rich Paul from Klutch Sports Management Group — were able to hash out a five-year, $70 million contract.
“I wanted to be back here,” said Bledsoe at the team’s media day on Monday. “I’m not a man of a lot of words, but I did want to be back here. I was just going to stay in shape and leave the business part to my agent.”
A turning point in the negotiations came when the Suns management team met with Bledsoe in person.
“The most important event in the summer of Bledsoe was when Robert, Ryan and I sat down with him,” explained Babby. “We talked about the future, his desire to be in Phoenix, his relationship with his teammates, his relationship with our coaching staff. We felt completely satisfied and it was abundantly clear to everybody in that room that Eric wanted to be here, always wanted to be here and a lot of this was just a summer of business.”
Two separate issues complicated how much Bledsoe was worth: his injury history and the implications of how the NBA’s salary cap will be changed due to a new television deal.
Bledsoe has had two surgeries on his right knee leading to some long-term concern over his health. Obviously, with giving him a five-year deal the Suns are confident the knee will hold up.
“We know his medical history better than anybody,” said McDonough. “We made a big commitment to him and we wouldn’t have done that if we weren’t comfortable with where he is now and where we think he will be in the next five years.”
The expected rise in the cap when the NBA’s new TV deal kicks in played a role in Phoenix being able to re-sign Bledsoe, as well as the Morris twins.
“I think it does have a significant impact,” McDonough said. “We’re projecting a national TV contract that’s about to double or even more than double that gets factored into the BRI and split among the teams and the players. We’re projecting a cap that’s going to escalate pretty sharply here over the next couple of years. That’s not the only reason we did the deal with Eric and the extension with the Morris twins, but it is a factor. We try to be forward thinking. We try to project not only where the cap is today, but where it is going to go and what it’s going to look like four of five years from now cause that’s the length of the deal those guys signed. I think that helped us get a deal done specifically with those three guys.
As the two sides squabbled over how much Bledsoe would eventually be paid, it was his representation that was often criticized publicly. Whether McDonough did it for perception or he truly thought the shots at Paul were unfair, he set the record straight on Monday.
“Don’t blame Eric or his representatives for how long this took,” preached the Suns GM. “If you want to blame anybody, blame Lon and I too because we’re half of it. If you think they started too high or we started too low we share that responsibility. I want our fans to know how important we feel Eric is to our team, how highly we think of him and how excited we are to have him back in a Suns uniform.”
Babby went on to discuss how the 24-hour news cycle caused some misinformation to get out.
“Part of the problem here was we don’t negotiate in public. People try to fill the air space with a lot of information and a lot of it was wrong. I always believe it’s complicated enough without getting the public involved, the media involved. A lot of the impressions were misimpressions. It was a process and it got done. We’re happy and there was no acrimony throughout the process. That’s the reality of it.”
This situation led to Babby having to clarify some of the reports with Bledsoe’s people to make sure things didn’t get out of hand.
“There are times you have to try to explain, people speculate about the source of information. The agreement we had all along is that we weren’t going to negotiate in the media and we didn’t, for the most part.”
Despite all the complications due to the mitigating factors surrounding the negotiations, the Suns and Bledsoe ended up in a position good for both parties. Phoenix got one of its core pieces back at a reasonable price even though it was more than what they originally wanted to pay. Bledsoe gets to continue to grow and prosper in a system he was highly successful in this past season.
With the money now aside, both parties can go about trying to figure out how to get the Suns back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.