Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough questioned the leadership of Eric Bledsoe and the advice Bledsoe is getting from his agent, Rich Paul, who also represents notable players such as LeBron James, John Wall and rookie Ben Simmons.
In an interview on Arizona Sports radio 98.7 on Tuesday, McDonough further addressed Bledsoe’s tweet on Sunday that read, “I don’t wanna be here.” The tweet was posted moments before the organization fired coach Earl Watson.
“I was certainly surprised by it and disappointed by it,” McDonough said. “I think Eric’s a good person. I think he’s unfortunately gotten some bad advice and is listening to the wrong people. I think generally, any time you sign a contract, it doesn’t only work one way. It works both ways, and for a guy with years on his contract to say or intimate he didn’t want to be here anymore, I didn’t find that to be appropriate, and I think if he says he wants to be a leader, that’s the opposite of what a leader does and the opposite of what leadership is. So I think that’s all I’m going to say about that.”
ESPN first reported on Monday that Bledsoe was sent home following a meeting with McDonough.
The 27-year-old point guard had met with Suns owner Robert Sarver and McDonough during the preseason and requested a trade, sources told ESPN. Frustrated with the direction of the team, its whiffs in free agency and questionable personnel moves during his four years with the franchise, Bledsoe expressed that it was time he moved on, sources said. Bledsoe was then told by management, according to sources, that the team had underperformed ever since he was given starting point guard responsibilities.
“I think, just my opinion, the shift comes from contractual demands made by his representatives,” McDonough said of Bledsoe's desire to move on, “and that’s what I was referring to when I said I think he got bad advice.”
Later in the interview, McDonough tripled down on his criticisms of Bledsoe’s representation: “[Eric’s] a talented player and a good player, but like I said, I think he’s just being a little bit misguided at the moment with some of the advice he’s getting.”
McDonough said even though other teams are aware of Bledsoe’s discontent, he’s receiving “pretty intriguing offers.” But McDonough added that since the guard is away from the team, there is no urgency to complete a deal.
“If you can imagine, my phone was ringing a lot yesterday,” McDonough said. “The ideal time to get a deal done is whenever the best offer presents itself. So we’d be fine doing it sooner rather than later. At the same time, he’s under contract for this year plus next year. We sent him away from the team to eliminate that distraction. So we’re willing to do a deal, we’re open to do a deal whenever the best offer presents itself.”
New York, Denver and Milwaukee are in the mix for Bledsoe.
McDonough raved about the team’s lone win of the season under interim coach Jay Triano on Monday over the rebuilding Sacramento Kings. He also reiterated in great detail why he decided to send Bledsoe home.
“I didn’t want to put [Eric] in a bad position, we didn’t want to put the players on the roster who are here working hard, who are bought in, who are about the right things,” he said. “We didn’t want to put them in a position where there was a guy who was an energy drain, or moping around or honestly not putting forth great effort. We just didn’t want to put him in that position and didn’t want to expose him to that environment, and that’s part of the reason why we sent him home.”
It is also known within league circles that Bledsoe wasn’t pleased with being benched during the second half of last season in order for the Suns to improve their draft position.
“He was certainly hurt by getting shut down last year, and we understand that and respect that,” McDonough said. “At the same time, it’s a new year. He has multiple years left on his contract. I talked to Eric, met with him a couple times before the season started and he said he was excited about our group, excited to play with the young guys and thought we had a good thing going here.”
Whether or not McDonough’s comments end up hurting the Suns' chances of getting adequate value in return for a Bledsoe swap, he made it abundantly clear during the interview how he feels about Bledsoe and his agent.
“This was a decision Eric made and, unfortunately, he has to live with that and we have to live with the consequences,” McDonough said.