Eric Bledsoe intends on returning to action on Wednesday night when the Phoenix Suns host Cleveland Cavaliers. Bledsoe suffered a meniscus tear in his right knee that had to be surgically repaired and has missed the Suns last 31 games. His teammates stepped up and continued to play well without him, but his return will be a tremendous for the Phoenix Suns squad.
Bledsoe, who was averaging 18.0 points, 5.8 assists and 4.3 rebounds before he went down, was a key part of the newfound Phoenix success. The backcourt duo of him and Goran Dragic had become one of the most explosive and dangerous in the league. So naturally, when Bledsoe went down, there was a lot of doubt surrounding the Suns ability to continue wining. But they proved otherwise and still find themselves in the seventh seed of the Western Conference with a 36-25 record.
Numerous players stepped up in Bledsoe’s absence and first year coach Jeff Hornacek has pulled all of the right strings along the way. Gerald Green, who replaced Bledsoe in the lineup, turned into an every day starter and is averaging 15.6 points per game. He is coming off of a 41 point outburst in a win over the top seeded Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night. The emergence of Green alongside the All-Star snubbed Goran Dragic has been the key to Phoenix’s success without Bledsoe.
Dragic is averaging 20.5 points, 6.2 assists and 3.5 rebounds. Some have him in their top five for the MVP race. His numbers stand out on their own, but his ferocity and basketball IQ are what sets him apart from others. He has become Phoenix’s Steve Nash 2.0. But this comes as no surprise as there once was a time when Dragic learned from the future hall of famer himself.
Losing Bledsoe not only caused other players on the roster to step up, it also allowed them to bring in an old Phoenix face and the veteran leader that they needed in Leandro Barbosa. Barbosa has given the Suns some more depth and flexibility at the guard positions. Coincidentally, Barbosa fractured his hand last week and is expected to miss up to four weeks. As Bledsoe sets to return, Barbosa goes down. He appears to be returning just in time and will be a tremendous boost of production, energy and momentum for Phoenix.
The Suns were involved in many trade rumors around the deadline but never pulled the trigger. A lot of people wondered why and believed that it was a mistake on their part. The truth is that they already had their big gun to help lead them into the postseason. Adding Eric Bledsoe back to an already streaking Suns team will give the same effect as acquiring a player via trade. The only difference is that he’s familiar with the offense, and they already know what they’re going to get out of him.
While coach Hornacek is likely to bring Bledsoe off of the bench to ease his way back into the rotation, Bledsoe says that he will be going “full throttle” from the get go. “I’m going to stay aggressive and stay in that mind-set I had to start the season,” said Bledsoe after Saturday’s practice. Bledsoe’s return looks to be a tremendous boost for the Suns final push towards the postseason.
Commentary by Rich Peters
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