LAKE CHARLES, La. — As rookie TyTy Washington made his way up the left side of the court with the basketball, the rest of his teammates — including Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., Eric Gordon, and Jae’Sean Tate — were waiting on Washington to make his move to get the offense started. Along with Green and Smith, he overloaded one side as Tate and Gordon made their way to the opposite.
Washington drove towards the baseline and kicked the ball to Tate. Without hesitation, he passed it to a wide-open Gordon, who hoisted the shot, without delay, over Josh Christopher’s outstretched arms.
The result went as Gordon, his teammates, and the Houston coaching staff all expected. Swoosh.
The 14-year NBA veteran then sprinted back down the court with a stoic look and a “business as usual” vibe.
Gordon, 33, knows that his presence and leadership will be needed this year with the surplus of young talent the Rockets have.
“It is going to be a day-to-day, month-to-month, year-in, year-out process,” Gordon said about helping his youthful teammates navigate through the NBA season. “When you have a young team, guys are always trying to establish themselves in this league, and we have to establish ourselves as a team to grow. Everybody is still finding each other. Everyone has a good attitude, and the positivity is there.”
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What his young teammates lack in experience, they make up in talent. That’s something that stands out to Gordon, who played with four players last season under the age of 21 and now has three more teammates in Smith, Washington, and Tari Eason who are the same.
“We do have some really athletic guys,” said Gordon. “This is definitely one of the more athletic younger teams that I have seen or been around. Tari (Eason) adds that. TyTy (Washington) has sneaky athleticism, and Jabari (Smith) already has length and size. We just have to use it and use it collectively together, and we will be okay.”
Rockets head coach Stephen Silas loves what Gordon brings in leadership, but he also recognizes that he is still an excellent player on the court. Last season, Gordon averaged 13.4 points (47.5% FG, 41.2% on 3-pointers) and 2.7 assists in 29.3 minutes per game.
“When he turns the corner, he’s got those big shoulders and he finishes and everybody’s like, ‘There’s Eric,’” Silas said at training camp. “If he’s defending the post, he’s like, ‘I don’t need any help.’’ Or on the perimeter, ‘I don’t need any help.’ But there are things that guys are like, ‘That’s just what he does.’”
Gordon will probably be limited in minutes when the Rockets open their preseason on Sunday versus San Antonio at Toyota Center. Silas has yet to tip his hand on whether Gordon or Tate will be the fifth starter surrounding Green, Porter, Smith, and Alperen Sengun.