Randy Wittman wins first game in Boston as Wiz coach
Looking at the better of the two conferences, the West isn't only superior but the Phoenix Suns have been exceptional. They're only two games out of first place in the Pacific Division and ahead of the Golden State Warriors. Eric Bledsoe, who always has played in the shadows of John Wall and Chris Paul, has a lot to do with that.
Bledsoe, in his first season with Phoenix (16-10) and as a starter in the NBA, is having a breakout year. This is his fourth, after serving the previous three years as a backup to Chris Paul and Baron Davis with the Los Angeles Clippers.
In Bledsoe's only collegiate season at Kentucky in 2009-10, he played in the shadow of Wall, now the Wizards and possibly en route to his first All-Star season. The West is deeper at point guard, but Bledsoe at least warrants consideration for the league's most improved player. He's averaging 19.1 points on 49.4% shooting, 6.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds.
In a 123-108 victory vs. the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, Bledsoe had a Paul-like 25 points on just 12 shots and six assists (Note: Paul had 38 points on 14 shots in a rout of the Wizards last weekend).
"He's like a brother to me. If I'm not playing I always want to see him do great," Wall said of his former teammate, who has career NBA averages of 7.8 points, 3.3 assists and 2.8 rebounds. "That's exciting for him. The biggest thing when he got traded, I told him, 'This your opportunity to prove to the league what you can do.' … Everybody put him in the shadow behind me in Kentucky and put him behind Chris Paul's shadow. It's great to see him get out of somebody's shadow and prove what he can do."
The Suns traded center Marcin Gortat to the Wizards a few days before the season opened Oct. 30 for Emeka Okafor, who still has yet to play because of a herniated disk in his neck, and three throw-ins.
The Wizards quickly waived those players. The Suns knew Okafor was unlikely to play anytime soon, if at all, but were able to shed themselves of Gortat's $7.7 million salary. The Suns had acquired Bledsoe in a deal with the Clippers and he shares the starting backcourt with Goran Dragic.
At Kentucky, Bledsoe shared the backcourt with Wall, except then he played off the ball.
Wall will see him for the first time this season, in full bloom, at Phoenix on Jan. 24 to start a four-game West coast road trip. The Suns come to D.C. on March 26.