There’s a light at the end of this rebuilding tunnel, Suns fans. It’s the light from the engine of the Eric Bledsoe train, and it’s coming fast.
I, along with my friends Dave, Kini and Guy, have a partial season ticket pass to Los Angeles Clipper games. Before you judge me too harshly, let me clarify. The package is called the Big Game package, and when we first invested in tickets, the Clippers were not the Clippers you see today. Rather, they were sort of a stage comedy punctuated by moments of competent basketball. With the Big Game package, however, we get to see the best teams of a particular season visit Staples Center, and the Suns, during this period, were a Big Game for everyone. So it was a way for me to see the Purple Gang, as well as other marquee teams, all while hanging out with pals.
Time passed, and the Clippers became legitimately good and legitimately-er fun to watch, while the Suns hit a peak and began to journey down the other side, as all teams inevitably do. The Suns fell off the Clippers’ Big Game package slate, but my friends and I continued to go to the games, as much to stay caught up with each other as to track the continued improvement of the Clips. We’d sit there, eat our overpriced stadium food, keep one eye on the game, and talk movies, families, friends, basketball and whatever else, until the stadium announcer would say, “Now into the lineup for the Clippers…Eric Bledsoe.”
Then we’d stop, slide forward to the edge of our seats, and pay close attention.
Because, when Eric Bledsoe’s on the floor, things happen. Things like magician-quality steals. Jaw-dropping passes. Electrifying dunks. Spectacular blocked shots. Bledsoe never really got a chance to show his stuff for the Clippers, who had Baron Davis and then Chris Paul parked in front of him, but the sense always was, when this guy gets a chance to play real minutes…watch out. The comparisons to Kevin Johnson, circa 1988, have already been made. For our part, my friends and I, we loved Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe’s speed, his fearlessness, his ability to own the court during the time he spent on it endeared him to everyone, Clipper fans or not. He just needed an opportunity, and everyone knew it .
Welcome, Eric Bledsoe. Welcome to Phoenix, the Land of Opportunity. We have a hospitality gift for you. It’s our basketball team.
New Suns General Manager, along with new Coach Jeff Hornacek (who remembers the KJ of 1988 very well), have a vision for this franchise, and spent a lot of this summer moving pieces into place to begin achieving that vision. They chose to start with Eric Bledsoe, because he has that spark, that charisma, that enthusiasm, and all that ability. He’s as close to a good bet as a foundation point guard as the Suns have seen since…Kevin Johnson? (Remember, Steve Nash, Stephon Marbury and Jason Kidd were already stars when the Suns acquired – or in Nash’s case, re-acquired – them)
Bledsoe’s acquisition is no reflection whatsoever on Goran Dragic, whom the Suns were wise to lock up before last season, and who was probably the best player on the club over the course of the 2012-2013 schedule. Dragic is hard-nosed, athletic, willing, occasionally spectacular, and still improving. He is capable at both guard spots. He will be an excellent complement to Eric Bledsoe, and over time, the Suns’ backcourt could become one of the best in the NBA.
Marcin Gortat is looking to rebound from a tough season and prove he’s one of the best centers in the Western Conference. Channing Frye may be on his way back from a year lost to a medical problem, and if he returns to the roster, he’ll have something to prove as well. P.J. Tucker was a revelation last year, ready to accept any challenge. The Morris twins offer a blend of strength, size, touch, tenacity, and quite possibly, telepathy. Caron Butler is a pro’s pro…and a darn good option in the corner when one of the Suns’ guards breaks down the defense. Rookie Center Alex Len topped many teams’ draft boards this spring and could turn out to be the long-term pivotman the Suns have been looking for since…since…forever. Rookie Guard Archie Goodwin showed promising flashes in the recent NBA Summer League. Master passer Kendall Marshall has a year’s pro experience under his belt, and the Suns have about a bajillion picks in the next few drafts, which are expected to be stronger than this year’s. No experts are predicting the team to contend for an NBA championship this season, but the point is, Phoenix has a ton of assets to either develop or move. Plus, the promise of financial flexibility. With a plan in place and pieces to work with, the Suns are now officially a Work In Progress, and one very important component of the new core is in place and ready to go forward – Eric Bledsoe. He’ll be there when everything else falls into place around him, and he’ll be looked to as the player to show the others the way.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” That’s the way the old proverb goes, right?
Well, I’ve seen Eric Bledsoe firsthand, and trust me when I tell you he moves very, very quickly. Quick enough to make a thousand-mile journey feel a little more bearable. Quick enough to promise lots of thrills and excitement along the way.
Suns fans, get ready to move to the edge of your seats.