For a few months in the NBA offseason, the Phoenix Suns essentially had no idea what was going on with Eric Bledsoe.
According to head coach Jeff Hornacek, they shouldn’t have worried.
“Whatever he did in the five months we couldn’t talk to him was a good thing,” he laughed to Dan Bickley and Vince Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 Wednesday.
Bledsoe was a restricted free agent in the offseason, during which he and his agent Rich Paul pushed for a bigger contract. During that time, Bledsoe and the Suns had little to no communication.
So naturally, there might have been a little concern about what the guard was up to in the offseason. Was he staying in shape? Was he developing?
But when Bledsoe returned to the team for training camp in Northern Arizona, he had a spring in his step and a dose of venom in his crossover – plus an acceptance of the three-guard system Phoenix will employ to utilize its wealth of ball-handlers.
“We thought, ‘oh, yeah, he’s been doing some stuff,'” said Hornacek.
The second-year head coach said Bledsoe looks great and is in great shape. That’s not all that’s shifted since the summer.
“Just his determination,” said Hornacek. “Probably more than any of the other guys that I’ve felt…missing the playoffs has really driven him.
“We were hoping that was the case.”
Why does Hornacek think Bledsoe has snapped into a higher gear?
He thinks his point guard is on track to be an ‘alpha male’ in the league.
“It’s not like those guys just turn it on and off,” he said. “There’s a reason they get better. He is now on the mentality of ‘I want to be one of those top players in the league.'”
Hornacek says his team as a whole is a little more focused after their sobering near- miss of the playoffs.
“When you miss the playoffs by one game…you come back a little more focused the next year to say ‘Hey. We were close. But we’ve got to get a little bit better to get over the hump.'”
Led by a kid who’s “ready to elevate”, they might do just that.