BLEDSOE "FAST & UNDER CONTROL"
CHARLOTTE – The plays Eric Bledsoe makes that standout on nightly highlight shows or evoke the digital equivalent of gasps on Twitter are not necessarily the same plays that standout to Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro.
Of course, Del Negro can’t help but notice the moments of athletic marvel from his wrecking ball reserve point guard, but he is more interested in watching Bledsoe’s development as a floor leader and decision maker.
“I want him to feel the game, learn the game, dissect the game, understand time and score, understand what play sets work and what don’t, understand when he makes a mistake, why, and try not to make it again,” Del Negro said Wednesday following the Clippers’ 100-94 win over the Charlotte Bobcats. “His attitude has been very good, his work ethic’s been very good and he’s done a heck of a job for us producing.”
That’s been the bonus with Bledsoe this season, he’s learning on the job, but also finding a way to contribute in a myriad of ways. Against the Bulls Tuesday night, he had six points, three assists and two steals in just 14 minutes. A night later in Charlotte, he scored 13 points with eight rebounds, two blocks and one assist. He had a key put back layup at the end of the third quarter off a Jamal Crawford miss and blocked a runner by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with his forehead.
“His athleticism,” Del Negro said. “He gets the tip in at the end of the third quarter. All the little things he does: blocks shots, helps us get out in tempo and gets us some easy ones.”
Bledsoe usually grins and dismisses the plays like the forehead block or even the reverse slam dunk that he threw down off a lob from Crawford against the Sacramento Kings 11 days ago. But the soft-spoken guard is more likely to expound when talking about where he can improve.
“I feel so much better, especially from the two years I played to now,” said Bledsoe. “I just feel like I got better and I can help my team win.
“My decision making, you can tell I haven’t really been turning the ball over like I usually had, being out of control while I’m going fast. Now I’m fast and under control. I can just play, seeing the game slower now.”
Bledsoe has played 15 or more minutes in 17 games this season, committing one turnover or less 11 times. In his prior two seasons he did that only 20 times in 78 such games.
Part of Bledsoe’s development has come with experience, including a three-game stint in the Las Vegas Summer League in July where Bledsoe said his focus was on running the team and making good decisions. The developmental process has unquestionably been sped up thanks to the daily presence of Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups.
“Man, I’m very fortunate,” Bledsoe said. “To play with two Hall of Fame guards, just picking their brains every minute. I always talk to Chauncey when [Paul] is on the floor, asking him what I can do better, once I go in the game. And he just tells me to bring the energy.”
His seemingly unending energy and physical prowess has garnered nicknames like “Mini LeBron” or “Baby Bron” after three-time MVP LeBron James. Combining that energy with a newfound recognition on offense may make a future-Bledsoe into something else: uncontainable.