Suns continue to say they expect to keep Bledsoe

While rumors continue to swirl regarding unsigned point guard, Phoenix holds trump card in ability to match any offer

Point guard Eric Bledsoe remains the top unsigned free agent on the market, but there are few teams with sufficient cap space to make an attractive offer.

Jennifer Stewart / USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX -- Monday's media rally was called to give reporters an opportunity to meet and question the two newest Suns.

And there they were, lined up with the team's coach, general manager and president on a riser in one of the out-of-the-way regions of U.S. Airways Center.

But there also was a sneaky pachyderm lurking in a corner of the Al McCoy Media Center that wasn't addressed until most of the inquiries regarding Isaiah Thomas and Anthony Tolliver had been made.

So even though Eric Bledsoe hasn't reached contractual accord with anybody in the first 21 days of free agency, his status -- that elephant in the room -- still moves the interest needle.

Well, sort of.

Lon Babby, the Suns' president of basketball operations, fielded the question about Bledsoe by reminding us this event was about Thomas and Tolliver.

That was the proper move, of course, but with frequent -- and often clumsy -- rumors regarding Bledsoe and potential suitors still flying around, the question was inevitable.

OK, Babby did give us this:

"We continue to hope and expect that he will remain in a Suns uniform."

With the ability to match any offer for Bledsoe that might be mustered, there's no reason for the Suns to be in a hurry. Although this month's free-agent carnage has yielded max-level contracts for a couple of players with lesser portfolios (but better health) than Bledsoe, several established NBA point guards are being paid an annual wage similar to what the Suns have offered.

It has been postulated that not just offering something close to what Bledsoe and his agent are seeking will lead to hard feelings. But overpaying when they don't have to can create hard business decisions (and hard feelings elsewhere) in the future.

The weekend provided a couple of incarnations of a rumor that would put Bledsoe with the Los Angeles Lakers, who -- in a sign-and-trade format -- would send the Suns back what seems less than market value.

One of the alleged Laker trade chips (Jordan Hill) can't even be traded until December. Another (rookie Julius Randle) can't be moved for about a month.

So it goes.

Widespread reports that the Suns and Team Bledsoe are $32 million apart (an offer of $48 million over four years vs. a request for $80 million across five), have spawned reports of potential offer-sheet interest from Houston and Milwaukee. (The Bucks have an $11.1 million cap hold on Ekpe Udoh they'd have to renounced to have enough space to make Bledsoe an offer.)

Pretty much every team that still has cap space to make any offer in that range (very few such teams remain) has been included in these rumors.

What continues to be forgotten, however, is the Suns' ability to match and keen interest in having three point guards (including Bledsoe) who can knock in 20 points and deal six or seven assists during any game. Coach Jeff Hornacek, asked about it again Monday, said being able to have two off-the-bounce playmakers on the floor at all times is fine by him.

The Suns have two under contract in All-NBA third-team performer Goran Dragic, and Thomas, who averaged 20 points per game for the Sacramento Kings last season and thinks enough of Hornacek's double-PG attack to sign here for what seems like less than market value.

"They want me, and I want to be here," Thomas said. "It isn't about starting or coming off the bench."

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