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Phoenix Suns hope Eric Bledsoe ‘ready to go' next week

Phoenix Suns' Goran Dragic (1), of Slovenia, laughs along with injured teammate Eric Bledsoe, left, after Dragic is taken out of the game after a 34-point performance against the Golden State Warriors during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Phoenix. The Suns won 122-109. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX -- There appears to be light at the end of the tunnel for point guard Eric Bledsoe. His long road back from knee surgery is nearing a conclusion.

Having played five-on-five three times in five days without complication, aside from the anticipated muscle soreness due to a lack of inactivity, Bledsoe is expected to make his return early next week.

"I would hope so. I think that's the plan," head coach Jeff Hornacek said prior to the Suns game against Oklahoma City on Thursday.

Bledsoe, according to Hornacek, will "try to do some more things these next few days…and then maybe next week he's ready to go."

The Suns have the next two days off -- their first two-day break since the All-Star break -- giving Bledsoe possibly two more chances to get up-and-down full court with his teammates.

Friday will mark eight weeks since he underwent successful arthroscopic surgery involving meniscus cartilage in his right knee.

Earlier in the day, Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby told The Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM that Bledsoe was in "the final stages of his recovery and rehabilitation. He is medically and physically in great position to come back and now it's just a question of when he feels ready and comfortable and nobody is going to pressure him. We think it's going to be sooner rather than later. But when he tells us he's ready he'll be welcomed back with open arms."

When exactly that may happen remains unclear. The most likely of scenarios looks to be the Suns' next home game, March 12 against Cleveland.

Of course, when Bledsoe does return, the question becomes how to integrate him back into the lineup.

"You have to get him in at some point and it's always an adjustment, especially for a guy who's been out for a while," Hornacek said. "Guys' minutes will be different. They're going to be playing with different groups of players, so there's always that little adjustment. We have to somehow figure out how to get him into that without screwing up our rotation and obviously every game is big from this point on."

Hornacek has said he may initially choose to bring Bledsoe off the bench, at least for a game or two.

Oklahoma City faced a similar dilemma recently when its own point guard, Russell Westbrook, returned from in-season knee surgery.

"There's many different ways to do it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I chose to, when you've got one of your better players back to playing, I think you put him back in his normal spot."

Westbrook was re-inserted into the starting lineup and the Thunder promptly lost three in a row. They've since recaptured their winning ways.

"You saw it in Oklahoma City when Westbrook came back; it takes a couple of games to get back to being used to the rotations and who you're out there playing with. That's hard," Hornacek said. "We can't afford that at that point when (Bledsoe) does come back so hopefully it's seamless and guys jump right back into it."

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