By: Kayla Mortellaro
PHOENIX— With the Phoenix Suns recently signing point guard Brandon Knight to a five-year $70 million deal, the big question surrounds the team, how will Knight and fellow point guard Eric Bledsoe function together?
Knight was traded to the Suns just before the trade deadline in February of last season. Unfortunately for Knight, his playing time was limited to just 11 games due to injury. But despite the limited playing time together in a Suns uniform, Knight believes the two fellow Kentucky Wildcats can work cohesively in Phoenix.
“I have known Eric [Bledsoe] for awhile now and having a chance to play with him I think is pretty special considering we went to the same school consecutive years, both same situation, one and done,” Knight, 23, said. “We have a lot of similarities and we also have a lot of differences as well. But me and him get along fine. I am a little bit more of a talker than he is. I mean we are both are pretty quiet though but we find a way to make it work.”
Last season with the Suns, Knight averaged 13.4 points on 35.7 percent shooting from the floor including 31.3 percent from behind the arc. He also dished 4.5 assists a game for Phoenix. But before joining the Suns, Knight was averaging 17.8 points with 40.9 percent shooting from behind the arc with Milwaukee.
Bledsoe, 25, meanwhile enjoyed a healthy season with the Suns where he played in 81 games after signing a five-year $70 million deal. Last season he averaged 17 points, 6.1 assists and 5.2 rebounds a game. Bledsoe shot 44.7 percent from the floor and 32.4 percent from behind the arc.
It might be an egregious leap to make that Knight’s production dropped because he was playing alongside Bledsoe. Instead factor in that he was thrust in to a new system that he was not able to fully get acclimated to because of his injured ankle. In the long run, Knight truly believes the biggest goal is to win and to do that the two players will find a way to complement one another.
“I look forward to building a relationship with Eric,” Knight said. “He does a lot of a things that I know I can complement him and he can complement me and that’s what it’s about, making it work. When you have two guys that just want to win, and that’s what we’ve been bred to do our entire lives is win games, especially going to Kentucky and now coming here, the most important thing to do is to win. Like I said, that’s what we are going to do and we are going to work together to take those steps as the starting back court to make that happen.”
It is natural to be a little skeptical with the Suns and the point guards joining the team considering the last off-season bringing in Isiah Thomas alongside Goran Dragic and Bledose to share time, share the guard duties and coexist to win games.
But this time around seems different. Knight and Bledsoe have a connection. Knight is excited about playing with Bledsoe and Bledsoe is not in the middle of contract negotiations. Instead he has been around U.S. Airways Center and around the team showing his support. And Knight is sold on Phoenix being the place for him.
“I’m not saying getting hurt is a good thing, definitely don’t want to be hurt, but I think it did have some positives to be able to sit down and see what was going on and slowly take it in,” Knight said. “I feel like if I had been playing the entire time, it would have been a whirlwind, which is what it was when I first got traded. So once I got hurt, I was really able to sit down and think things through and really see what was going on with the Phoenix Suns. Everything that I saw from top to bottom starting with [owner] Robert [Sarver] all the way down to the last guy on the bench to our trainers- I’ve been on three teams already- Everything about the Suns was different, it felt good, it felt right, so when you have that feeling, you kind of just go with it.”
With everyone emotionally sold on the idea of playing together, logistically it has head coach Jeff Hornacek excited for the possibilities with his offense.
“I think teams, when they look at us, go ‘okay how do we stop Eric?’ Okay go ahead and try that but the ball is going to get swung over to Brandon’s hand, now you have to deal with Brandon on the other side and that puts a lot of pressure on the other team defensively, so I think it will work great,” Hornacek said.
All in all, Hornacek believes Knight and Bledsoe can be a formidable back court with ability and leadership. And to Hornacek, it was a no-brainer to re-sign Knight with the Suns.
“It was an easy to decision for me, when talking to Ryan [McDonough], we have to have Brandon back,” Hornacek said. “He’s going to be special for us.”