Now it can be revealed: That pull-up jumper in transition was not a shot under construction or a new tool now only ready for prime time after his apprenticeship with the Clippers.
Phoenix Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe insisted he had it in his arsenal. He was saying Tuesday morning it was all about opportunity and location.
“I’m getting the chance to shoot it,” he said after the Suns’ shootaround at Staples Center. “When I was with the Clippers, I couldn’t really do what I wanted to as far as my game. Sometimes I’d come out and compromise a little bit. I had a short leash.
“Now I can showcase my talent a little bit.”
Bledsoe said he wasn’t thinking much about shooting, worried about coming out if he missed.
“Now I can shoot it all day long without looking over my shoulder,” Bledsoe said.
Bledsoe’s blend of talent, along with its ups and downs, was on display a few hours later against the Lakers in a 114-108 Suns victory in which he had 18 points and nine assists. If anything, Bledsoe is the ideal point guard for the league’s fastbreak scoring leaders, a blend of jaw-dropping speed and athleticism in a 6-foot-1 package.
He made a three-point basket on his first try in the first quarter, later found backcourt running mate Goran Dragic in the corner, setting him up for a three-pointer with a pass from the opposite corner, under pressure. Bledsoe made seven of 19 shots, but only one of six from three-point range.It was his first time back in Los Angeles since getting moved in July to the Suns by the Clippers in a three-way trade also involving the Milwaukee Bucks.
The special occasion came one day after his 24th birthday. Bledsoe said the best present was when his 2-year-old daughter sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to him on the telephone. At least the 2-year-old’s version of it.
Ending up in Phoenix was a relief after a long series of trade rumors.
“I thought I was going to end up on the other side of the world,” said Bledsoe, who was drafted by the Clippers in 2010.
What exactly was his definition of the other end of the world?
“I thought I was going to Boston or Orlando,” Bledsoe said.
For the record, those would have been good options, closer to his family. He knew he would leave, eventually, given that Chris Paul, the heart and soul of the Clippers, was not going anywhere.
“Eric has a lot of potential,” said the Lakers’ Chris Kaman, a former Clippers’ teammate. “Getting that out of guys is the always question. He’s one of the few guys athletically that can do things most guys can’t. ... Obviously, they’re willing to give him minutes and let him experience and take chances and do things.
“Learning from Baron [Davis], learning from CP [Chris Paul], learning from Goran Dragic. Different guys, different levels of talent. He’s had a compilation of different styles of play and he’s got to put them all together.”
Bledsoe had 22 points, six rebounds and seven assists in his Suns’ debut, a victory over the Portland Trailblazers, and would later sit out six games because of an injured shin and was averaging 18.6 points and six assists heading into the Lakers’ game.
Suns Coach Jeff Hornacek made a pertinent observation about Bledsoe’s breakaway speed.
“I actually want him to go faster earlier,” Hornacek said. "… I think it would make it easier on him if he turned it on earlier, get everyone backpedaling and then you can slow it down toward the end when you take your shot.
“But he’s learning that. He’s just going to have to mix it up, sometimes take off early, take off later … keep them guessing. That way, maybe if he’s not going so fast when he’s around the basket, maybe there’s less turnovers. He’s still young and new at it. But he’s doing a great job.”