It’s no secret that former Kentucky Wildcat and current member of the Milwaukee Bucks, Eric Bledsoe, struggled mightily in last season’s playoffs.
In back-to-back postseasons, Bledsoe has looked like a shell of his regular-season self and both years have resulted in early exits from the playoffs. The Bucks made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2018-19 season before falling to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors in six games, but Bledsoe was hardly efficient.
The First Team All-Defense performer fizzled out when his team needed him the most, shooting 41.1 percent from the field and a putrid 23.6 percent from three during the Bucks playoff run this past spring. There were more than a few times throughout the three series in which Bledsoe couldn’t stay on the court.
Following the birth of his third son on Sunday night, Bledsoe spoke to the media for the first time this season, discussing what changes he’s made over the offseason. But he’s not focusing on his jump shot or dribble moves, rather his mental approach to the game.
While he is surely working on those aspects of his game, he knows that he can’t let one bad play affect the rest of his performance.
“My focus, it was pretty much just mental,” Bledsoe said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in regards to what he prioritized his attention to this offseason. “That’s pretty much it because we won 60 games, man. All of us went through stretches last year where we didn’t play how we wanted but we grinded it out, we found ways to win games. That’s what I think this group is special at. Even though we’re not making shots, we’ve got other things that we can do that can help this team grow.”
Bledsoe received a hefty pay raise in March, signing a four-year, $70 million extension to stay in Milwaukee for the foreseeable future. The Bucks sent away starting shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon via a sign-and-trade deal with the Indiana Pacers over the summer, adding that much more pressure on Bledsoe to prove that he’s worth his new deal. It was also a sign of trust from the front office that they believe in his ability to help drive this team to an NBA Finals appearance.
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) October 4, 2019
This season, the Bucks aren’t going to sneak up on anyone. They have the reigning-MVP in Giannis Anteotkounmpo. They’re coming off a 60-win season, the franchise’s highest total since 1981. They’ll be favorites to win the East once again, and Bledsoe knows the team is going to have a target on its back.
“That’s why I pretty much focused on mental [this summer],” Bledsoe said in the same article. “moving on to the next play.”
Throughout the course of an 82-game season, it’s easy to get into a flow; into a consistent rhythm. Even if you go through a bad stretch of games, there are still more that lie ahead. The pressure of winning isn’t as relevant as it is once the postseason begins. It’s easy to have fun when you’re winning and playing well. It’s not as much fun when you’re slogging through a slump and being limited to the bench. Now he’s just focusing on moving on to the next play.
Expectations in Milwaukee are going to be higher than they’ve been in decades. A run to the NBA Finals is more than attainable. In fact, they’ll likely kick off the season as the favorites to do so out of the East. They’re going to need every piece of the puzzle to fit perfectly and that includes Bledsoe hitting his stride all the way into June.