Suns' Bledsoe: 'Always wanted to be back here'
PHOENIX (AP) Eric Bledsoe was confident he would be back with the Suns despite a long summer of uncertainty that finally ended with the point guard signing a five-year, $70 million contract just days before training camp.
''I always wanted to be back here,'' Bledsoe said Monday at US Airways Center before the Suns left for camp at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. ''I'm not a man with a lot of words. I just kept working hard and left the business part up to my agent.''
Lon Babby, Suns president of basketball operations, called the prolonged negotiations ''the summer of business.'' Babby also said there was never any acrimony between the club and Bledsoe's agent, Rich Paul, who also represents LeBron James.
''Don't blame Eric for how long it took,'' Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said. ''Blame us.''
While negotiations dragged on amid speculation that Bledsoe might sign a one-year qualifying offer for $3.7 million from Phoenix or go to Minnesota in a sign-and-trade-deal, the 6-foot-1 guard stayed at home in Birmingham and did what Suns coach Jeff Hornacek told him to do.
''In the back of my mind, I kept hearing what Coach Hornacek told me: `You gotta run, you gotta run,''' said Bledsoe, who re-signed with the Suns last Wednesday.
With seven guards on a preseason roster that is short on experience among its big men, the Suns figure to run for as long as they can and as fast as they can.
''We think we should be one of the top three teams in the NBA in terms of pace,'' Hornacek said.
The Suns have doubled down on that possibility by signing 6-foot-5 guard Zoran Dragic, point guard Goran Dragic's younger brother, to a two-year contract.
The Suns, who were known for twins Dick and Tom Van Arsdale during the early years of the franchise, also announced Monday that they re-signed twins Markieff and Marcus Morris, both forwards. Each signed a four-year contract extension - Markieff for $32 million and Marcus for $20 million.
''My brother really deserves more,'' said Marcus, who last season averaged 9.7 points and 3.9 rebounds, 4.1 points and 2.1 rebounds fewer than Markieff.
The acquisition of Zoran Dragic came about as a result of a scouting trip that McDonough and Hornacek took to Slovenia during the summer. In part, they were there to keep an eye on Goran, who is expected to start alongside Bledsoe. After last season, there was some concern that further wear-and-tear on Goran Dragic might result in an injury while playing for Slovenia in the World Championships.
That's when they spotted Zoran, who McDonough said reminded them of returning Suns forward P.J. Tucker, who has a reputation for tenacious defense.
''He was all over the place, chasing down loose balls,'' said McDonough. ''Goran is more of point guard. Zoran is more of a shooting guard.''
Zoran Dragic said the NBA has always been his goal. The Suns bought him out of his contract with Unicaja Malaga, a team in Spain.
''I think I'm ready,'' he said as his brother sat and listened. ''I've been playing professionally in Europe for 10 years just for this moment.''
When he was asked who was more excited, him or Goran, he said he thought he was.
No, Goran interrupted from his seat off stage.
''Mom, mom,'' he said.
No sibling disagreement on that one.