Eric Gordon, and the jersey he didn't want to wear ever again (Getty Images)
New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon has become a poster boy of sorts for the ruins of restricted free agency, and for good reason. Gordon turned off NOLA fans last year by professing to prefer to sign with the Phoenix Suns while working as a RFA, but the then-Hornets matched the Suns’ offer sheet for Gordon, and Eric had to rejoin the team. Unlike Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague, who recently put on a brave and professional face after pleading with the Hawks to let him become a Milwaukee Buck, Gordon was more than a little removed during the 2012-13 season in New Orleans. Both literally and figuratively, as Gordon missed 40 games due to knee injuries, while watching his minutes and contributions dwindle and playing listlessly at times.
With the Pelicans having traded for guards Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, Gordon is now stuck in trade bait limbo with the team he’s a year removed from trying to get away from. In a move that the Pelicans have to love, Eric has decided to engage with the organization’s Summer League team in Las Vegas, engaging with the players and offering advice on the bench. John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune has the story:
``People forget that Eric is a good guy,'' Pelicans coach Monty Williams said after Monday's game.
That’s a weird endorsement. Monty went on:
``I actually called him out of the blue the other day and he told me he was coming out. Nobody asked him, he just said coach, `I'm coming out and I want to be around the team.' I thought that was phenomenal.''
Gordon claims that he’s looking forward to sharing minutes in a perimeter rotation that will feature Evans and Holiday, two players that tend to dominate the ball at times. From Reid’s interview:
``Its all about clicking early and having everybody healthy once training camp begins,'' Gordon said. ``I've talked to Jrue, but I haven't talked with Tyreke yet. We'll definitely get that chance right before training camp opens. I have known both of those guys since high school.''
It’s not a given that the Pelicans are going to trade Gordon, but that seems to have more to do with the cooling trade market for the guard, and less to do with their hopes for a three-tiered attack. Jrue Holiday is a fantastic player working on a good contract, and he’s still quite young, but one of my bigger frustrations with the deal that sent Holiday to NOLA for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first round pick was the way the Pelicans basically smacked their trade leverage with Gordon in the knees in one fell swoop. While giving up Noel and a potential lottery pick in the process.
Teams know the Pelicans are in a weird place, attempting to strut wide while shooting to win now, but stuck with a potentially unwieldy situation in the backcourt. Toss in the three years and over $44.5 million that Gordon is owed, and you’re not seeing a whole lot of teams lining up to make that Perfect Trade so that New Orleans can round off its depth and shoot for 45 wins. Even if the team was still slowly rebuilding, working without Holiday and Evans, I very much doubt teams would be lining up to deal for Gordon anyway. Perhaps that’s just my personal view of his game taking over.
It’s good to see him engaged, though. The NBA Players Association has meetings in Las Vegas this week, so it’s possible Gordon is in town just for that (it’s also, um, Las Vegas), but this is still a sound team-building move, and good work on Eric’s part.
What influence, if any, will it have with Gordon’s future in New Orleans? I don’t think Gordon nor the Pelicans even know at this point.
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