Eric Gordon shows positive signs in return to court
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
As a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, Eric Gordon was once called “a human bowling ball” by teammate Blake Griffin, a description that applied to Gordon’s physical drives to the basket. During his three Clippers seasons, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard showed a knack for drawing fouls, based on a quick first step and a sturdy 215-pound frame. Since joining New Orleans just prior to the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season, however, injuries have prevented Gordon from displaying that trademark skill. He missed 57 games in his New Orleans debut, then appeared in just 42 contests last season.
Although he’s only been back on the court for the Pelicans’ recent two-game road trip after rehabbing from ankle surgery, Gordon has already shown signs that the Clippers version of him may be returning. In Thursday’s 105-102 victory over Oklahoma City, the sixth-year NBA veteran scored 21 points in 21 minutes, but it was the way he got his points that impressed teammates. Gordon went to the foul line eight times and was 6-for-9 from the field.
“He’s tough,” fellow Pelicans starting guard Jrue Holiday said. “It’s like he doesn’t see anybody in front of him (when he penetrates). He’s really smooth, and you can tell his body’s really strong. He doesn’t let (a defender) come and hit him; he hits them first.”
“That’s how good he can be, if he’s feeling healthy and comfortable with everything,” reserve point guard Brian Roberts said after Gordon’s OKC performance. “That just shows how explosive he can be at times when he’s out there on the floor.”
In Saturday’s 93-89 win vs. Washington, Gordon was less reliant on taking the ball to the hoop, instead spotting up for open shots; Holiday frequently found him with accurate passes on the perimeter. Gordon netted 16 points in 24 minutes against the Wizards, including 3-for-6 three-point shooting. Even though his minutes have been limited at 21 and 24, respectively, he’s the Pelicans’ second-leading scorer in preseason at 18.5 points. He posted a gaudy 60/56/89 line in field-goal, three-point and free-throw percentage in the two victories.
“It’s like he hasn’t even been out,” Pelicans guard Anthony Morrow said of how Gordon looked in the two games. “Eric’s one of those guys who is automatic, can score and get to the rim. He’s really helping us out offensively. We just hope he continues to stay injury-free, because he’s making a lot of great strides right now. He worked really hard in his rehab, so I’m really happy for him.”
“He’s coming along,” New Orleans Coach Monty Williams said. “He’s so good at getting the ball and running into people and getting to the free-throw line, I think that can help us. I’m pleased with the work he’s put in and how he’s been diligent about getting into game shape.”
For his part, the soft-spoken Gordon has two primary goals for the 2013-14 season, both things that have eluded him during his five previous years in the league. He hasn’t played in 70-plus games in a single season since his rookie year, and he has yet to reach the playoffs. Accomplishing the first could go a long way toward achieving the second on a New Orleans club (6-0 in preseason) that appears to be significantly more talented.
“We’ve got a lot more playmakers, a lot of guards who can make good plays at any given time,” Gordon said. “Our bigs, (including) AD (Anthony Davis), they’ve all stepped it up another notch.
“We have a young, collective group that’s built for the future, but we’re talented enough to make the playoffs (this season). There are a lot of things that can happen during the season, but if we stay healthy and stay together, we could look forward to that.”
Gordon said Monday he will play increasingly more minutes as the regular season approaches Oct. 30. He’s encouraged by his first two games but wants to string together quality outings. Due to physical restrictions, he was held out of back-to-back games in 2012-13.
“It’s a good start from the previous years.” Gordon said. “The main thing is for me to maintain good health throughout the season. I’m doing that now and getting back into the flow of things.”