Eric Gordon appreciated all the welcome-back wishes he received at a New Orleans hospital on Monday while he took a physical for his new contract with the New Orleans Hornets. But once Gordon puts on his Hornets uniform for his first home game next season, he isn't sure the response will be quite as warm.
After declaring that he didn't want the Hornets to match the Phoenix Suns' offer sheet for him – and that his "heart" was already in Phoenix – Gordon now finds himself back in New Orleans. And he says he's committed to leading the young Hornets, who now include top overall draft pick Anthony Davis and rookie guard Austin Rivers.
"I wish I could've done a little better with the fan perception," Gordon told Yahoo! Sports. "But also at the same time they don't know the business perspective of how negotiations are handled. They don’t know how being a restricted free agent can be mind-boggling for a player.
"I’m here with an open mind and here to help the young guys. They will see the next four years will be better than the last four years of my career, so it should be nothing but good things."
A knee injury limited Gordon to just nine games last season after the Hornets acquired him in the trade that sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers. He turned down a four-year contract offer from the Hornets that would have paid him close to $50 million in January.
Gordon expected to be courted by the Hornets when free agency began on July 1. The Phoenix Suns, Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets expressed strong interest immediately. Gordon said that wasn't the case with the Hornets.
Gordon has had several conversations with Hornets coach Monty Williams, but was disappointed about not hearing anything from general manager Dell Demps, the Hornets' new ownership group led by Tom Benson or any other front-office member. He still has yet to speak to the Hornets' brass.
"All I could do was communicate with the coach," Gordon said. "That was the only communication I had. My agent [Robert Pelinka] was the only one communicating with the GM and the other front-office people. That was very different for me to go through."
The Suns signed Gordon to a four-year, $58 million offer sheet that includes the opportunity for him to opt out of the contract after the third season. After he agreed to the offer sheet, Gordon released a statement saying he hoped the Hornets wouldn't match.
"I strongly feel they are the right franchise for me," Gordon said. "Phoenix is just where my heart is now."
The Hornets didn't waver on their intention to match the offer and retain Gordon. Demps said he plans to talk to Gordon at some point.
"A lot of it is part of the business," Demps said. "It will be interesting when we sit down and talk."
Gordon also questioned the Hornets' drafting of Rivers with the 10th overall selection. Rivers arrived from Duke as a shooting guard, Gordon's position. Gordon believed the Hornets needed another big man with the departure of Emeka Okafor and Chris Kaman. In addition to drafting Davis, a forward, New Orleans also eventually landed power forward Ryan Anderson in a sign-and-trade deal with the Orlando Magic.
The Hornets are converting Rivers to point guard during summer league to play alongside Gordon in the backcourt next season.
"It’s a business; I understand," Rivers said. "He has to look and see what’s right for him.
"Maybe he said things out of frustration. At the end of the day if he is there with us, great, because I would love to play with Eric Gordon still, no matter what he said."
Gordon now says he looks forward to playing alongside Rivers and that the two could take turns playing point guard.
"He was never really a problem," Gordon said. "It was more of a business standpoint of I didn’t know what direction the front office of the team was going. I never had a problem with him. I just know that while I’m here I’m going to try to help him in every situation possible."
Gordon said he always knew the Hornets would match the offer sheet.
"I’m young and talented, so why would they let me go out like that?" Gordon said.
Demps believes Gordon is now committed to Hornets. "He's a good player and I think he's a professional," Demps said. "We think he’s going to be a big part of our team this year and moving forward."
Gordon, just 23, feels like the elder statesman of the Hornets, who have eight players with two years or less experience, three rookies and five born in the 1990s. He also believes there is now a talented nucleus for the Hornets to build around and he is hopeful veterans will be added to the roster before the season begins.
"It's going to take time," Gordon said. "I can see it developing to be really good in a few years. But as of right now I wouldn't go over the top with it because those guys are young. They don't know how to play in big game situations yet."
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