BLEDSOE CONTINUES COMEBACK
Matthew Martz | 1/28/12

BAKERSFIELD, January 27, 2012 – In his first extended playing time since last season, Clippers point guard Eric Bledsoe reminded his team exactly what they’ve been missing on Friday, January 27.

Playing on the tail-end of a back-to-back in his second game with the Clippers’ D-League affiliate, the Bakersfield Jam, Bledsoe made up for a slow start by a turning in a strong second half performance, scoring 10 points, including going 4-of-6 from the foul line, with a game-high 10 assists in 23 minutes.

But it wouldn't be enough, as Bakersfield fell to Luke Harangody and the visiting Canton Charge, 124-108.

It was a much different game for Bledsoe, who finished Thursday's contest against Los Angeles with 15 points and seven assists in nearly 19 minutes.

"I feel pretty good about my performance for the most part," said Bledsoe, who had just 3 assists in the first half, "They were doing a good job clogging up the lanes tonight, but I thought I did a good job hitting the open man."

"That's what I do."

For the second night in a row, Bledsoe came off the bench midway through the first period with the score tied at 14, but unlike Thursday's game his impact was not immediate. However, after missing back-to-back layups, he hooked up with Adam Koch in the lane for two, before finding Osiris Eldridge who buried a three to end the quarter with the Jam ahead 36-31.

From there, Canton clamped down, trapping Bledsoe, not allowing him to operate the pick and roll effectively, and forcing him to finish the first half with just 7 points and 3 assists.

After a disappointing first half, Bledsoe came in with just under six minutes expired, and uncorked a barrage of dishes in the third, first hitting Eldridge who buried a three off a no-look cross court pass, then connecting with Juan Pattillo for a pair of back-to-back one handed flushes, before he exploded through several Charge defenders on his way to the rack.

Although Bledsoe played just over four minutes in the final quarter, he showed no signs of slowing, and his coast-to-coast layup got the Jam to within seven points, with just over 7 minutes to play.

"We expected him to come out and be a little tight and maybe sore today," said Clippers Player Development Assistant Howard Eisley, "He was a little slow getting it going tonight, but I thought he had a much better second half, getting to the ball a lot harder, and making some good things happen."

While Eisley was not ready to comment on when Bledsoe might return to full-time action with the Clippers, he did say that they would be rejoining the team on Saturday for the upcoming road trip to Denver on Sunday.

"I think coming up here served its purpose, and he (Bledsoe) was able to get up and down the court and get some reps in and develop some confidence in his leg," Eisley said, "I think he is ready to rejoin the team, but that's not my decision."

Even so, Bledsoe won't be expected to take over the backcourt upon his return to Los Angeles, that’s not what the Clippers' need. They already have an outstanding trio of guards in Chauncey Billups (14.9 points per game), Chris Paul (16.7 ppg) and Mo Williams (14.9 ppg), who can carry the offense and hound opposing guards on the perimeter defensively.

What Bledsoe can be, is the perfect complement to the Clipper's backcourt strengths.

"He is definitely a spark plug and brings a lot of energy to our team," said Eisley, " He is a game changer, and being a young guy, he can change the tempo of the game, and is a good change of pace from our older guys."

Nevertheless the big question is whether Bledsoe is physically and mentally back to where he was before the injury.

"He's about three months out of surgery and I think he's come around pretty much the way we planned it," said Assistant Athletic Trainer Joe Resendez, "We targeted late January, early February for his return to play, so he's right on schedule."

"We have progressed him as we have come along these past couple of weeks with various drills, but this was his opportunity to play full court basketball in a 5-on-5 setting, and we'll have to see how his knee holds up."

Regardless, of when Bledsoe actually steps back into his role with the team, with that piece of the puzzle back in place, the Clippers will have that much more consistency and depth, as well as a player that can ignite at the guard position.

More: Bledsoe Solid in Rehab Stint