New Orleans coach Monty Williams is asking Hornets fans for a favor regarding Eric Gordon, who plans to return to practice next week after rehabbing a knee injury: Give him a second chance.
"Our city has been a city of second chances," Williams told Yahoo! Sports. "This situation should be the same way. Eric said some things. But if you polled most of the people in our city about the things they said at [age] 23, I'm sure they had some regrets. We want our city to embrace him because that's who we are."
The words that caused such a stir for Gordon in New Orleans came in a statement he made after signing a maximum four-year, $55 million offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns this past summer. "I strongly feel they are the right franchise for me. Phoenix is just where my heart is now," Gordon stated.
Gordon told Yahoo! Sports he regretted those words, but there was a reason he was so cavalier.
"Of course I did [regret it]," Gordon said. "But that was the only way to push the table on the Hornets. To get a deal done I was willing to negotiate. My agent and I were going through negotiations with them. But they weren't leaning into really giving me one. So I had to ride with Phoenix and from Day 1 they weren't playing games."
Gordon was intent on getting a maximum deal and signing it prior to trying out for the Olympic team in mid-July. He felt the Hornets were taking advantage of his restricted free-agent status by taking their time. Without the maximum offer he sought from the Hornets, Gordon instead signed with Suns on July 10. The Hornets eventually matched the deal.
Team general manager Dell Demps declined comment on the contract negotiations.
After continued right knee issues, Gordon decided to rehabilitate it rather than have more surgery after missing the preseason. He has been rehabilitating in Los Angeles, including workouts of eight hours a day of late, he says. Demps, who saw Gordon work out this week, said he could be back in the lineup in 7-10 days.
Gordon says he has no ill will toward the city of New Orleans or its fans and he has not asked for a trade. His major concern is about the direction of the franchise after struggling to a 21-45 record during the 2011-12 season. The Hornets currently have the Western Conference's worst record at 5-20.
"I just want to get back to playing," Gordon said. "Of course, I like New Orleans. I just want to make sure things are on the right track now. The team is having a terrible year so far …
"I just got to see the overall picture of what the future is going to be like. We can be possibly good. But it's going to be a long venture. I have no concerns about the city."
Gordon was the key player the Hornets acquired in the trade that sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 14, 2011. A knee injury limited Gordon to just nine games during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season with New Orleans. But he showed glimpses of what he could offer in a Hornets uniform by averaging 20.6 points.
Gordon said it's possible he can return to playing next week. But he is erring on the side of caution while expecting a return before 2013 arrives with limited minutes at the start.
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"We're just going to throw him out there," Williams said. "Eric is so explosive and knows how to play. I think our guys are going to gain confidence. Most of our guys have no idea [about his talent] … It's going to breed confidence in our team and they're going to understand why we paid so much money in order to get him back."
The Hornets are eager to finally see Gordon and rookie Anthony Davis, the top overall pick in this year's draft, play together. Gordon said his presence will make it easier for Davis to score in the post.
"He can score the ball, he can defend," Davis said. "He's a bulldog. He goes out there and plays hard. He can bring that energy and that leadership with our team."
Gordon hopes the Hornets and their fans will offer patience as he works off the rust to regain his old form.
As for winning the faithful back …
"For the fans," Gordon said, "there is nothing I can solve until I get back out there."
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