What’s the root of Eric Bledsoe‘s feud with the Suns?
Them tanking during his prime years? Him requesting a trade? Their harsh response? Him seemingly making that request public? Him lying about it? Them accusing him of lying about it?
Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, via Arizona Sports 98.7 FM:
“Eric (was) eligible for a renegotiation and extension of his contract … with two years left on his contract, we did not feel like that was something that made sense for the team. We told Eric and his representatives that was something that we were potentially open to discussing next summer with one year left on his deal. I guess they didn’t like that answer and took kind of a hostile approach and kind of shut down and distanced themselves from the team. I think that’s where the approach came from.”
The NBA’s rapidly rising salary cap and new Collective Bargaining Agreement have created fertile conditions for renegotiations and extensions. In an attempt to limit potential distractions, the CBA says players with multiple seasons remaining on their contracts – like Bledsoe – can’t sign extensions during the regular season.
That clearly backfired here, Bledsoe not getting his deal then taking his grudge into the season. There’s just so much more at stake now.
Bledsoe is set to earn $14.5 million this season and $15.5 million next season.
If it were a few years ago, Phoenix would be under the previous CBA and likely capped out. Bledsoe’s max extension would have been two years, $33,459,375. At that point, he probably would have preferred to play out his contract then sign a new deal in 2019 free agency.
Under the current CBA and with the Suns holding $12,332,363 in cap space, Bledsoe was eligible for a $25,651,315 raise over the next two seasons plus a three-year extension that projects to be worth $105 million and could be worth up to $110,104,086, depending where the 2019-20 salary cap lands.
This isn’t to say Bledsoe demanded the full amount, but his agent, Rich Paul, has a history of aggressive negotiations.
Without knowing Bledsoe’s exact request, the Suns were probably wise to decline. They’re rebuilding around younger players like Devin Booker and Josh Jackson. Preemptively paying Bledsoe into his 30s would have likely been a setback.
But this is the downside – an unhappy player and chemistry problems.
Ability to sign players to contract extensions has varied over multiple CBAs. Owners want to limit players’ ability to demand new deals whenever they please. Maybe Bledsoe’s situation will be an isolated incident. But if other players use the more-lenient extension rules to pine for extensions then gripe if they don’t get one, this could get revisited when the next CBA is negotiated.