Now that he's the starting point guard for Phoenix, Bledsoe has blossomed into a major player for the
The athletic Bledsoe is averaging a career high in points (18.4) and assists (5.9).
Bledsoe had spent his first three seasons with the
Bledsoe was backing up Clippers All-Star
"My second year, after the playoffs [against Memphis and San Antonio], I had a great playoff and I was feeling confident over the summer," Bledsoe said. "I kind of felt it then" he was ready to start.
Paul become a mentor for Bledsoe during the two years they played together with the Clippers.
When the two played each for the first time during a regular-season game at
"Obviously we're friends, but when you step on the court, you are competing against one another," Bledsoe said. "I know it's going to be a real intense, fun, get-after-each-other type of game."
Bledsoe was a part of a three-team, four-player trade that sent him to the Suns from the Clippers last summer.
The Clippers acquired
The Clippers also traded
When he was hired as the Clippers' coach,
"I really liked him," Rivers said. "I thought that he fit a lot of the stuff that I do, especially defensively."
Rivers also knew the Clippers needed players and Bledsoe's value was high around the NBA.
"He was ready to be a starter, there's no doubt," Rivers said. "We really only had one talk and I talked to his representatives. They made that very clear. And if it wasn't starting, he was playing a lot of minutes. That could have happened here. I just didn't know if it was going to happen here. And I don't know if he would have been happy or not."
It may not be on the same level for Clippers associate head coach Alvin Gentry, but after he was fired by the Suns last season, Rivers said he was sure Gentry wanted the Clippers to beat Phoenix.
Gentry coached the Suns for 31/2 years before he was fired midway through last season.
He took the Suns to the Western Conference finals in 2010, losing to the Lakers.
"In Alvin's case, you hope that the players sense that and they want to win it for him," Rivers said. "But I've never heard of a 'player win for the coach' speech yet."