BLEDSOE LEARNED HOW TO COMPETE FROM CHRIS PAUL

PHOENIX – When Chris Paul walked into U.S. Airways Center prior to shootaround, his former understudy was about to walk through the tunnel on the opposite end of the floor.

Paul spotted him and called out.

“What’s up, E-Bled,” Paul said as he briskly walked towards the basket Suns point guard and former Clipper Eric Bledsoe was standing near.

Bledsoe, who could be as well known for his toothy grin as his explosive play on the court, turned back towards Paul, once his mentor, and smiled. The two embraced along the baseline with Paul joking that he was going to sit out and give Bledsoe a break when their teams squared off a few hours later in Phoenix.

It may have been a welcome sight for Bledsoe whose Suns are locked in a desperate fight to stay afloat at the bottom of the Western Conference Playoffs. But Bledsoe knew better.

Asked what he learned most from his two years backing up Paul in Los Angeles Bledsoe said, “Preparation, coming to the gym prepared and just going out there and competing.”

It makes sense that Paul, one of the sport’s fiercest competitors, would teach the now 24-year-old Bledsoe how to win. It’s all Paul cares about. And when Paul used to talk about Bledsoe he would always say that competing against each other every day in practice made them both better.

Paul is known for helping young point guards, though. In Houston earlier in the Clippers’ five-game road trip, rookie Isaiah Canaan talked about getting help from Paul at his camp while Canaan was a collegian at Murray State. There are countless others from role players like Suns guard and Wake Forest alum Ish Smith to young stars like Stephen Curry.

READ MORE: BLEDSOE RETURNS TO L.A. WITH SUNS »

Bledsoe said the best thing about learning from the league’s best point guard was that he allowed him to learn from miscues and mistakes.

“He pretty much showed me by example how to play the game,” Bledsoe said. “He talked to me sometimes, but for the most part he kind of let me go out there and make the mistakes by myself.”

Bledsoe and Paul still talk, as evidenced by their excitement to see one another on Wednesday morning, but it’s not so much about teach lessons any more.

“I send him a text here and there and after certain games and what not, especially after this Dallas game when they beat Dallas,” Bledsoe said. “They are in the race with us so we needed them to lose.”

Bledsoe, who was injured in the first quarter of his first meeting against Paul, knows that playing with Paul as opposed to against him are two entirely different things.

“[He’s] totally different,” Bledsoe said of Paul. “Off the court he’s pretty much a gentleman. Not so much on the court. On the court he’s likely to try and rip your throat out.”

And after two years of learning from Paul, Bledsoe will likely be trying to do the same.