John Wall had taken some personal satisfaction in watching Eric Bledsoe, his good friend and former Kentucky backcourt mate, have a breakout performance in his first season with the Phoenix Suns.
Finally given a chance to shine as a starting point guard in the NBA after playing shooting guard with Wall in college and backing up Chris Paul with the Los Angeles Clippers, Bledsoe was coming into his own for the surprising Suns – averaging career-highs of 18 points and 5.8 assists – before tearing the meniscus in his right knee.
Bledsoe is now out indefinitely after undergoing his second surgery on the knee on Friday. He also had another surgery to repair a torn meniscus in the same knee in October 2011, during the NBA lockout.
“I texted him to keep his head up. Hope for a speedy recovery,” Wall said. “He said he’s holding his head high. It’s just a bump in the road. He told me to keep playing the way I’m playing and go and make the all-star game.”
With Paul, Stephen Curry, Tony Parker and Damian Lillard, the Western Conference has much more depth at point guard than the Eastern Conference. Bledsoe was a darkhorse candidate to possibly join Wall in New Orleans after pairing with Goran Dragic to form a two-headed point guard monster with the Suns.
Phoenix is 21-13 but 16-8 with Bledsoe in the lineup. He had missed six games with a bruised shin earlier this season.
The Suns said in a news release that Bledsoe “will pursue a possible return to action during the second half of this NBA season.” Generously listed at 6-feet-1, Bledsoe will be a restricted free agent this summer but Wall believes that the 24-year-old speedster proved his true value around the league this season.
“It’s kind of sad to see him go down, because he probably was going to be most improved player and he was having a career year,” Wall said.
Earlier this season, Wall said Bledsoe “is like a brother to me. If I’m not playing I always want to see him do great. The biggest thing when he got traded, I told him, ‘This your opportunity to prove to the league what you can do.’ ”
The Clippers dealt Bledsoe to the Suns last July in a three-deal with Milwaukee that landed J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley. An incredible athletic and lightning quick guard, Bledsoe had averaged just 8.5 points, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game last season but exploded in a wide-open offense under new Suns Coach Jeff Hornacek.
“I always knew he was talented and I told him, when he was coming out of Kentucky, he thought he’d be there for three years,” said Wall, who teamed with Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins to lead the Wildcats to a 35-3 record in 2009-10. “And I told him, when I first seen him playing, I thought he was an NBA type player. I think he was taking the league by storm and people was surprised by what he was doing. And I was happy to see him get out of the shadows of being at Kentucky with me and being behind Chris Paul and letting his talents be known.”