LOS ANGELES – Eric Bledsoe had an eventful day.
On Friday afternoon, the Milwaukee Bucks guard agreed to a four-year, $70 million contract extension.
Hours later, he dropped a season-high 31 points and lifted the Bucks to a 131-120 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, guaranteeing a playoff berth for the Bucks.
The Bucks now leave southern California with 48 wins on the season. That win total is their most since 2001, the last time Milwaukee made it out of the first round of the playoffs
Still, after the game, the Bucks seemed more focused on celebrating Bledsoe’s payday — as well as the addition of veteran Pau Gasol, who has been cleared to join the Bucks after agreeing to a buyout with the San Antonio Spurs.
Bledsoe, generally more reserved and soft-spoken, fielded questions from reporters for 10 minutes after the win. He cracked jokes with a grin plastered on his face and professed: “I am just happy to be a Buck.”
“We are competing for something,” a giddy Bledsoe said. “I just want to be a part of that. It means a lot.”
Bledsoe also added nine rebounds and five assists for the Bucks. He was traded to the Bucks from the Phoenix Suns in November 2017. Since then, Bledsoe has worked with the coaching staff to cut down on turnovers and turn up his energy on defense.
When asked about the extension of his teammate, Giannis Antetokounmpo said that he was glad to have the point guard signed long term.
“It’s a great feeling,” Antetokounmpo said. “Great having Bledsoe on the same team for the next four years. He deserves it. He’s done everything the team wanted him to do. Unbelievable leader.”
Nikola Mirotic said that he wasn’t even aware that the win cemented the Bucks’ spot in the post season.
“Oh wow,” Mirotic said when he found out. “It is great news. We don’t want to relax. We have – how many? – 20 games left. Obviously we are very happy for Bledsoe. The Bledsoe show continues.”
Khris Middleton told ESPN that two years ago, clinching the playoffs would have been a significant milestone. This year, the Bucks have bigger goals: entering the playoffs with competitive seeding and making it out of the first round.