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There’s tanking, and then there’s whatever the Phoenix Suns are doing three games into the season.
After three straight losses to start the season — two in embarrassing fashion — and 18 months after giving Earl Watson a three-year deal, the Suns fired their head coach, making his tenure the shortest to start a campaign in NBA history. How the Phoenix front office could go through an entire offseason believing Watson was their man, only to change their minds so quickly, is beyond comprehension.
But their worries are from over.
Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe, arguably their best player, flat out told the world he does not want to be in Phoenix. Perhaps even more remarkable, the statement remains on Twitter some 17 hours later:
This is a toxic atmosphere. That much was clear after the Suns suffered the NBA’s worst season-opening loss ever — on their home floor, no less — and clearer when they followed that up with a 42-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night. But Bledsoe’s tweet adds a level of toxicity that no new coach will be able to clean up. Not with this roster. Pray for interim coach Jay Triano.
Bledsoe’s frustration is understandable. The Suns shut down Bledsoe against his wishes for the final 14 games last season in a tanking move Watson called a “management decision. I don’t think any coaching staff would hold Bled’ out.” Maybe that was the beginning of the end for both in Phoenix.
That too came with a tweet:
The Suns then spent the summer dangling Bledsoe in trade talks — most notably in a failed three-team deal for Kyrie Irving that would have sent Bledsoe and Paul George to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Suns couldn’t have been confident Bledsoe would return a happy camper to a team that remained too young to compete, and now they face the prospect of getting pennies on the dollar in return for a player, when healthy, has produced averages of 17.6 points, six assists and 4.7 rebounds as a starter.
They may have Bledsoe under contract for this season and next, but there’s no way they can keep him around now. How are you going to let a point guard who doesn’t want to be on the team infect a culture that’s trying to instill proper professionalism in recent lottery picks Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss? Bledsoe could help a lot of teams, especially a Cavs team that is already dealing with an injury to Derrick Rose, but nobody will give up any value for him.
Bledsoe is close to LeBron James, and they share the same agent. Keep one eye out on that front.
And another on this one:
DeAndre Jordan seemed to be pitching a return to the Los Angeles Clippers for Bledsoe with this tweet shortly after his former teammate tweeted his displeasure with Phoenix. Bledsoe wanted off a contending Clips team in 2013 (and even earlier) because Chris Paul was standing in the way of a starting position, but with Paul gone and Milos Teodosic out indefinitely with plantar fasciitis, there’s a need there, too. The Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks are also reportedly in the market:
Wherever Bledsoe lands, it’s not shocking at all that he’s been benched and made available to the highest bidder after his “I don’t wanna be here” tweet, even if he tried to play it off as trivial:
And it’s not stunning that Bledsoe responded to that news with a tweet:
The only surprise is that Phoenix didn’t send him packing earlier to maximize their return. Suns general manager Ryan McDonough can’t possibly expect to get anything close to equal value after publicly saying of Bledsoe, “He won’t be with us going forward,” no matter how hard he might try:
In the meantime, don’t be surprised if the Suns hand the keys to 21-year-old Tyler Ulis, who played well as a starter once Bledsoe was benched in the spring. Watson inexplicably relegated the Kentucky product to the end of the bench in favor of Mike James as Bledsoe’s backup. We know what the Suns are. They’re a young team that will lose a lot of games. Might as well go down with the kids competing.
With a little guidance, of course:
Meet the Phoenix Suns, where dysfunction is laid bare on Twitter and tanking is taken to a new level.
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