This summer, restricted free agent Eric Gordon made no secret of the fact that he much preferred to play for the Phoenix Suns over the New Orleans Hornets, the team that controlled his rights. After being traded to the Hornets weeks before the start of the season for Chris Paul, Gordon managed to play in just nine games for his new team as he dealt with a knee ailment. Unlike many restricted free agents who test the market and end up with matched offer sheets, Gordon didn't come back to the only NBA home he's ever known. In a way, New Orleans is just as foreign to him as Phoenix would have been.
It also appears as if Gordon won't have an easy time getting more comfortable in teal. According to head coach Monty Williams, Gordon will be out indefinitely as he struggles with the knee pain that forced him to miss all of training camp. It's a bad break for a team that was counting on Gordon's scoring prowess to help acclimate Rookie of the Year favorite Anthony Davis to the NBA.
However, the story doesn't stop there. A closer look at the report details a potentially troublesome relationship between Gordon and the Hornets organization. From Jimmy Smith for The New Orleans Times-Picayune (via EOB):
Gordon was instructed by a member of the Hornets' media relations staff not to speak with reporters and was escorted to the locker room after shootaround by the team's security chief. [...]
"He probably does feel pain; that would be the only reason why a guy can't play," Williams said. "For me to try to read an MRI ... I'll find out more as we go forward. I try to not get into all that because that would just make me upset."
Williams said on Monday he would check with team physician Scott Montgomery to ascertain if playing Gordon would cause additional damage.
"I've checked with Doc," Williams said, "but for him to explain to me what's going on with his body and then have Eric feel a certain way doesn't matter. You know what I'm saying? If Doc says one thing and the guy is feeling another, then you have to . . . what am I supposed to say?
"I'm sure it's got to be medical. A guy just can't not play. It's got to be medical. At this point of the year, everybody is excited to play. I'm sure it's medical."
Although there are no specifics in this story, the fact that the Hornets kept Gordon from talking to the press and Williams' statements about potential disagreements between doctors and Gordon don't exactly bode well for their relationship going forward. Williams doesn't come right out and say it, but he isn't far from suggesting that Gordon is exaggerating his level of pain.
It certainly doesn't look as if player and team are building a foundation for the future. When Gordon expressed his interest in playing for the Suns in July, he emphasized that he wanted the Hornets to prove how important he was to their future, either by making him an extension offer before another team or by being more open about his importance to the franchise over time. Their drafting and promotion of Anthony Davis has been very sensible, but it's also possible that it's gotten on Gordon's nerves. He's one player who quite obviously does not want to be considered something less than a franchise player.
Of course, the Hornets are also paying him a max-level salary for the next four years, so it's not as if they've done nothing to show how much they value Gordon's contributions. For that matter, Gordon is essential to the team's identity moving forward; his presence takes considerable pressure off Davis and should allow the highly touted rookie to develop into a player defined by his present strengths rather than an overbearing need to score due to a deficient roster. If Gordon is out for a long period of time, then the Hornets' long-term plan should move along more slowly than anticipated.
It's for the good of everyone that these disagreements and vagaries get resolved soon. While it's difficult to assign blame when we don't know exactly what the Hornets have told Gordon, it's in his best interest to get back on the court as soon as he can, or at least to agree with the Hornets on a timetable for his return. Gordon may not be in New Orleans forever, but it'd be a bad idea to gain a reputation as a toxic personality, whether he deserves it or not.