Eric Bledsoe’s return to Phoenix among Wednesday’s NBA storylines

Nov 22, 2017, 6:59 PM | Updated: 7:11 pm
Milwaukee Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe (6) drives to the basket for a shot after getting past Dallas Ma...

Milwaukee Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe (6) drives to the basket for a shot after getting past Dallas Mavericks' Dennis Smith Jr. (1) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

PHOENIX—Just weeks after being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, guard Eric Bledsoe returns to play against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena Wednesday night.

Having played with the Suns since 2013, Bledsoe was sent to Milwaukee for center Greg Monroe and a future draft pick. Though his transition from the team was not completely smooth, it appeared he did not have any ill feelings toward old teammates.

Suns guard Tyler Ulis said that Bledsoe actually came over to guard Devin Booker’s house Tuesday night and played cards with Booker, Ulis and forward Jared Dudley.

Despite the relationships, Ulis said the game will still be intense, and some trash talk is a likelihood.

“I know he’s going to be in here, hyped to play and come at us, and we’re excited,” he said.

Sharing memories of battling some of the best back courts in the NBA, Booker said it will be “weird” seeing Bledsoe up close in a different uniform, but that he’s thankful for the time the two spent together. However, when the game starts, he is determined to go after an old teammate and play effectively.

“You get to go against this guy on another team now,” he said, “It’s going to be competitive.”

On Phoenix’s side, the game represents Monroe’s first time competing as a Suns player against the Bucks, with whom he played since 2015.

Before media asked a single question Monroe after Wednesday’s shootaround, he made a point to say nothing special stood out about his first contest against his old squad.

“Before y’all start, I don’t care that we’re playing Milwaukee, don’t ask me. It’s the same game as any other game,” he said.

Coach Jay Triano said Monroe has played long enough in this league that playing against an old squad wouldn’t be a big deal, but if it provides a little spark to perform well, it could be a positive for the team.

“There’s 82 games a year, and you need to find 82 ways to get motivated and a little psyched up, and if that’s one of them for him that’s great,” Triano said.

However, what Monroe can provide the team is knowledge of some of the motions and plays.

Phoenix, which gives up nearly 116 points per game on defense, last in the NBA, could need as many advantages as possible, especially against Milwaukee’s multiple high-caliber scorers.

Triano said the key to guarding Milwaukee is utilizing all five players on the floor because of the near impossibility of just one player slowing down the Bucks’ transition and high-speed offense significantly. Monroe’s presence and knowledge of what the opponent likes to do best could come in handy in that capacity.

“I try to share as much as I can,” he said. “Obviously, I played with those guys for a while, so I know a lot of their tendencies. I know the sets.”

Since suffering a calf strain that kept him on the sidelines for his final games with Milwaukee, Monroe has played just three games in Phoenix, but has averaged 12 points and six rebounds, filling in at the starting spot for injured center Tyson Chandler. His teammates and coaches have lauded his post presence and ability to pass from the low block.

However, when Chandler eventually makes it back onto the floor, Monroe could find himself in a three-player competition for minutes and shots, including center Alex Len, who himself has played an average of 23.2 minutes per game.

However, Triano did not hint as to how the rotation between the three solid big men might play out.

“Three different guys can help us in three different ways, and they’re all good players, so it will probably be dependent upon how the game goes,” he said.

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