After setting his sights on Eric Bledsoe following the point guard’s “I don’t wanna be here” tweet over the weekend, Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough expanded his target to include Bledsoe’s agent, Rich Paul, during an interview on Arizona Sports Radio on Wednesday afternoon.
The Suns imploded on Sunday, firing coach Earl Watson after a horrific start and seeing their best player independently voice his displeasure with the franchise on Twitter. McDonough met with Bledsoe on Monday and informed the media that he did not buy Bledsoe’s excuse that the “here” in “I don’t wanna be here” was a hair salon. The GM sent Bledsoe home to avoid further distraction while they press “reset” on the organization and seek a suitable trade for the seven-year veteran.
Despite reported trade interest from the Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks, among other teams, the market is less than ideal now that Bledsoe has made public his desire to play elsewhere and McDonough has lost leverage after conceding the Suns have no choice but to deal him.
Still, that didn’t stop McDonough from driving his stake in the ground even further on Wednesday.
“I was certainly surprised by it and disappointed by it,” he told the radio station. “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.”
Bledsoe is represented by Rich Paul, who wields significant power as the agent to LeBron James and a number of other high-profile players, including John Wall and Ben Simmons. Paul also represented recently fired Suns coach Earl Watson. But McDonough had little interest in appeasing the agent.
“I think the shift comes from contractual demands made by his representatives, and that’s what I was referring to when I said I think he got bad advice,” said the GM, whose father Will McDonough was a legendary sportswriter known for shooting from the hip. “[ … ] He’s a talented player and a good player, but I think he’s just being a little misguided at the moment with some of the advice he’s getting.”
NBA stars have become increasingly aware of their power to dictate where they play, and if we learned anything from Kyrie Irving’s trade request from the Cleveland Cavaliers this past summer, it’s that they are more willing to wield that power earlier in their contracts. Perhaps McDonough’s biting criticism of Bledsoe and, more notably, Paul — the agent who has overseen LeBron’s jump to Miami and back — is a response to this trend. But it’s unlikely the GM’s decision to go so public with those comments will do him any favors in trade discussions for Bledsoe or contract negotiations with Paul going forward.
McDonough referred to Bledsoe as “a guy who was an energy drain or moping around or honestly not putting forth great effort” and reiterated his desire to keep the 27-year-old away from the team as a result. The GM also suggested the Suns are in no rush to trade Bledsoe, who remains under contract for this season and next. (Which is what any GM who wants to stir up the trade market should say.)
McDonough mentioned that the team’s tanking-fueled decision to rest Bledsoe for the final month of last season, which Watson termed a “management decision,” played a role in his desire to want out. The GM also did not refute reports by Arizona Sports Radio host John Gambadoro that Bledsoe met with the front office prior to the season to discuss his trade prospects on multiple occasions.
However, McDonough “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.”
Phoenix hosts the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.
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