On Wednesday, the New Orleans Hornets and max-salary shooting guard Eric Gordon made news for a particularly confusing injury update. Gordon, who has struggled with knee issues over the past year, would be out indefinitely with knee pain. What was weird, though, is that head coach Monty Williams seemed to suggest that Gordon had been cleared by doctors and simply didn't want to play. On top of that, Gordon was kept from speaking with the press. To an outsider, it looked like there was a pretty substantial disagreement between the franchise and one its marquee players.
The Hornets must have acknowledged this problem, because Gordon addressed the media on Thursday. Unfortunately, he utterly failed to clarify the situation. Check out the video above from Hornets247.com to see him speak, and check out this report from Jimmy Smith for The New Orleans Times-Picayune for more (via EOB):
In a bit of a contradictory appearance before the media post-practice Thursday, New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon conceded that physicians determined there is some damage causing the pain in his right knee, though Gordon said initially there was no structural compromise. [...]
"I'd say sorta," Gordon said. "From talking to the doctors, from when I last told you guys in September until now, I have had a little bit of a setback as far as this injury. Nothing structural, but it has been a little bit of soreness and swelling to where I'm only listening to the doctors and they can see and tell that it's been a little damage.
"I've had MRIs, and I went to the team and they've always been aware of my injury. I have had MRIs lately, so I'm looking forward to seeing what's happening this weekend to see what's furthermore. ... I will hear what the doctor's thinking this weekend." [...]
Responding to a question of whether the latest MRI indicated damage, Gordon said: "That's the reason why I'm not playing. The past three days I've been practicing because I thought it would be something I might have to deal with pain-wise. I went to the organization the other day and told them 'This is not feeling too good. It's very painful.' We went and got another MRI." [...]
Was there any part of him, he was asked, that felt he might miss the entire season?
"I don't know; I don't know at all," Gordon said. "There's still no timetable."
Is there ligament or cartilage damage in the knee, Gordon was asked again.
"There's damage," he said. "I'll figure (it) out this weekend."
To recap, Gordon initially said there was no structural damage, then said he had undergone (several?) MRIs recently to test for damage, and finally said there was in fact damage. Got that? I'm glad we could clear everything up.
Now, it's very possible that Gordon simply misspoke, which he also did in July while explaining his desire to play for the Phoenix Suns as an unrestricted free agent despite the fact that he clearly understood he was a restricted free agent. Articulating thoughts is difficult for the vast majority of people in the world, and it's no great shame for someone to say something confusing when in reality that person is perfectly clear on the situation. Given how often Gordon mentions MRIs and damage to the knee, I'm willing to bet his use of "nothing structural" was an absent-minded error.
However, that doesn't change the fact that Gordon's statements are generally noncommittal. Instead, Gordon seems like a guy focused on a vague knee injury that doesn't even seem to concern his employers too much. It's fine if Gordon got several inconclusive MRIs and is waiting for better results, but there are far less cryptic ways to explain that. For that matter, if he does believe this knee problem to be very serious, then he needs to get Hornets brass on board with that feeling, too.
This is a bad look for Gordon and the Hornets. Even if there's no animosity present between the two parties, the confusion and general lack of agreement in this situation makes it seem as if everyone involved is at odds. Gordon might not be happy in New Orleans, but he's under Hornets control for four full seasons and isn't even eligible to be traded for several months. If this relationship is going to be salvageable at all, then Gordon, the Hornets, and all involved representatives need to get on the same page regarding the injury and their future. The longer this confusion persists, the worse things are going to get.
Hopefully this weekend will bring answers. As the Hornets showed in Wednesday's narrow loss to the Spurs, they're a young, exciting squad that could turn into a Western Conference contender in a few years. However, they won't reach those heights unless this situation with Gordon gets worked out.