Eric Bledsoe has heard the talk.
How he was outplayed by fill-in starter Terry Rozier, who rankled Bledsoe on and off the court, causing him to average just 13.6 points per game on 44% shooting in the Milwaukee Bucks‘ seven-game loss to the Boston Celtics in 2018.
How a year later he shot a dismal 29.4% in the Bucks’ conference final loss to the Toronto Raptors, who went on to win an NBA title many had projected Milwaukee to claim.
How the pressure is on him this year to step up and help the Bucks win a title. But he’s not feeling it.
“I think pressure’s a big word, especially from where each individual comes from,” Bledsoe said heading into the NBA restart in Florida. “But [I’m] a little bit more motivated to get back to where we was.”
Fairly or not, Bledsoe has become the poster child for Milwaukee’s early exits each of the past two postseasons. But it’s not just Bledsoe. As Giannis Antetokounmpo has ascended, his supporting cast has declined when he needed them most, though the reigning MVP isn’t dwelling on that.
“We’re all hard on ourselves, but basketball is not what you did in the past or what you’re gonna do in the future, it’s about what you’re doing right now,” he said.
Right now, the Bucks are down 2-0 in their playoff series against the Miami Heat, a team that had already given them trouble during the regular season — and a franchise that has never lost a series when leading 2-0. The question of whether the Bucks’ supporting cast can give their MVP the help he needs remains the most important one as they attempt to turn this series around. Because if they can’t and they again fall short of a championship — or even a trip to the Finals — the question they’ll be asked again is whether Antetokounmpo’s future will be in Milwaukee.