FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – LeBron James was the first. Then ex-teammate Jamal Crawford.
Both players went on record over the offseason sharing their opinion that the Suns landed themselves a future NBA star in 6-foot-1, 195-pound point guard Eric Bledsoe.
The Suns certainly hope so.
They hope they’ve acquired a player, who much like backcourt teammate Goran Dragic, will blossom once out of the shadow of a perennial all-star.
As a backup to Chris Paul last season, Bledsoe averaged a career-high 8.5 points to go along with 3.1 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.43 steals in 20.4 minutes.
When given the chance to start when Paul got hurt, Bledsoe, in 12 games, responded with 14.2 points, 5.3 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals in 34.2 minutes.
“I was looking forward to this moment, and it came and I’m ready for it,” Bledsoe said of being a first-time starter as he enters year four of his pro career. “I’ve been preparing for it this summer—not only this summer, since I’ve been playing basketball since college. I’ve been preparing (that) one day I would get a chance to be a starter in this league.”
The Suns acquired the 23-year-old playmaker and defensive standout as part of a three-team trade that saw captain and fan favorite Jared Dudley shipped to the L.A. Clippers.
One of the more sought-after players this summer, Bledsoe is loaded with potential; but as history has proven, potential can be a dangerous word in sports.
“I wasn’t sure about the passing ability and what he saw as a point guard,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “And right away, from the week right before we came up here in those pickup games, you could see, ‘Yeah, okay. He sees the floor well.’ He’s made great passes.”
The Suns want Bledsoe, who has made only 38 career starts, to be the one — along with Dragic, to push the pace offensively.
“Eric has times when he can really explode and go, but in L.A. they didn’t do it all the time,” Hornacek said. “Our emphasis on him is to try to do that all game long.”
A glimpse of just how dynamic a player Bledsoe can be was on display Thursday.
For the first time since training camp began, the Suns allowed the media to watch a portion of the end-of-practice scrimmage. Bledsoe shined with three assists — feeding Marcin Gortat and Archie Goodwin for dunks — and two steals, including one leading to a breakaway slam.
“I think everybody has been practicing extra hard, staying focused. Everything it takes I think everybody has done that this week,” Bledsoe said Friday.
Again, time will tell whether or not he can handle the role full-time, but he and the Suns believe he not only has the talent, but is prepared to be that on-court leader.
“I’ve been working on everything, such as dribbling, shooting, passing, defense,” Bledsoe said.
“Right now it’s a mental thing for me so I’ve been trying to stay mentally strong such as when I make a turnover or certain plays don’t go right. It’s a mental thing right now.”