Hornets Beat: Emotion Town and Eric Gordon

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Published: February 25, 2013

After a short hiatus for Mardi Gras and the ensuing recovery, Hornets Beat heads to Emotion Town. Try to hold it together, will ya?

1. What’s the happiest moment you ever experienced as a Hornets fan?

Mason: This game. Nobody, Hornets fans included, gave the Hornets a prayer of winning this series, especially with David West out for the playoffs. Every ESPN analyst picked the Lakers to win that 2011 playoff series in either 4 or 5 games. And yet, there the Hornets were, evening up the best-of-seven series at two games a piece behind one of the best games I have ever seen Chris Paul play, and the most enjoyable professional sports game that I personally have ever attended. Did I think we would win the series? No, but DAMN, that win felt good.

Jason Calmes: When it was confirmed to my satisfaction that Tom Benson was going to buy the team. After putting so much effort into studying the problem, talking about it, and all signs pointing to the NBA and New Orleans being a good fit, the solution settling in, preventing a silly relocation, was just so satisfying.

Joe: 10 pm CDT on April 29th 2008 (which happens to be my birthday). I was in the street outside New Orleans Arena celebrating the series clinching victory over the Mavs. Soul Rebels Brass Band led the party from the middle, and we danced for what seemed like hours. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

McNamara:  This feels like forever ago, but I remember running around my house screaming for ten minutes after Zo hit that shot. She was none to happy. But it was the Hornets first playoff series win and the future appeared so bright. Fast forward to a couple of years later and that entire team was different, but I have come to learn that roster change is part of being a Hornets fan.

Andrew Smith: May 22, 2012. The Hornets beat the Clippers at home and Jason Smith leveled Blake Griffin (I know it may be wrong, but I loved that moment). That was by far the most energetic I’ve seen the Arena, and definitely the most fun I’ve had.

2. What’s the worst you’ve ever felt as a Hornets fan?

Mason: The moment that I had to come to terms with the fact that Chris Paul would not be staying with the Hornets was easily the toughest thing I have ever had to deal with as a Hornets fan. Like everyone in this city, I loved CP3, and to know his time in New Orleans was coming to an end definitely hurt. I know that many of us still haven’t gotten over it as we watch him excel for the Clippers now.

Jason: The antipodal point of my answer to question 1 . . . when it was announced the NBA was buying the team. It was not that NBA was stepping in in and of it itself, though that was disconcerting. It was that it signified that something very significant was wrong. To lose a team because two guys couldn’t agree on a price when others (clearly) had the means and motive but no opportunity would have been deeply frustrating to say the least.

Joe: It wasn’t Chris Paul’s actual departure that bothered me, but the way he went about it. At that point I was spending hours and hours each day writing and thinking about the Hornets. To have someone like Paul, a guy I had paid thousands of dollars to see play basketball) essentially lie to a scrum of reporters and not have anyone call him out was a reality check for me. If I recall, only Fletcher Mackel truly pressed the issue, and he was brushed off. I realized then that not only do the stars get to dictate where they play basketball for eight-figure annual salaries, but are also able to simply ignore completely legitimate and relevant questions. I’m still not sure what I would say or ask if I could go back to that day, but I wouldn’t have stood there in silence as Paul was asked by multiple reporters if he would consider recruiting talent for New Orleans, days after every fan and their grandmama knew he was a goner.

And yes, I acknowledge that by accepting a trade to LA (instead of LA!) he allowed us to get some nice pieces back.

McNamara: Game 7 against San Antonio was crushing because that series was ours. After the first two games, where Chris Paul led us to double digit victories, I was already looking ahead to a Western Conference Finals date with the hated Lakers. We came out and dictated the pace in every game at home that series, and I really thought Game 7 would be no different, but Popovich showed why he is the best coach on the planet and we never got close to reaching that level of play again.

Smith: The moment when I thought my favorite player in the NBA (Chris Paul) was going to play for my least favorite team (The LOLakers).  If knowing that my favorite player wasn’t going to stay a Hornet is bad enough, but the thought of almost trading him to the Lakers made me literally sick to my stomach. That was the worst part of that trade drama.

3. Are you more or less optimistic about the future than you were when this season began?

Mason: I’d be lying if I said “more” given the continued issues with Eric Gordon, but my optimism for the future is still at a high level regardless. A lot of the disappointment surrounding Gordon (and Rivers) has been mitigated by the out-of-nowhere surprise seasons from Vasquez and Lopez. Oh yeah, and that Anthony Davis guy helps, too.

Jason: More. The franchise locked up Dell, took on no long-term dead money, and are getting the most from their team. On the business side, things are not so rosey, but the franchise is reacting appropriately and setting up for the long-term. I’m confident the fans are in fact coming around, and when the rebrand settles in, it will send a message of stability (this is still not `out there’), and THAT will help a ton.

Joe: Slightly less, but still very optimistic. I’m seeing a little more than I expected from each and every one of the big men so far, but substantially less from the wings. Greivis and Roberts have been a bit better, but Rivers and Gordon have been substantially worse. In the end that’s a net negative in relation to my previous position of nearly unsurpassed optimism.

McNamara: I would say more because I think guys like Vasquez and Lopez have raised their trade value higher than I would have deemed possible before this season. I knew Davis and Anderson would be cornerstone pieces and that Rivers would be bad in his first year, but I didnt expect good numbers from GV and Lopez. Those good numbers should translate to Demps getting another piece or two with significant value when he moves them.

Smith: More. Anthony Davis has been far better than I expected offensively and just as good as I expected defensively, Robin Lopez has been better than I ever thought he would be, Ryan Anderson has shown that he doesn’t need Dwight to light the court up, and Greivis Vasquez has been a great floor general on offense. The only thing that could make me more optimistic is if Gordon suddenly had the durability of Westbrook, and Aminu developed a respectable jumpshot.

4. What kind of contract would you except Eric Gordon to command if the season ended today and he was an unrestricted free agent?

Mason: Gordon’s situation would be very similar to Stephen Curry’s of Golden State. Curry has had ankle injuries for the bulk of his young career, but still earned a deal that pays him an average of about $11 million per year. I think Gordon’s contract would come in a bit under that, but not by much.

Jason: 1yr, $10m. I’m not sure he’d sign a deal for less than 8 figures, and I’m not sure teams are willing to gamble THIS offseason given the tax rules. The lack of high dollar trade deadline deals corroborates that teams are in fact risk averse at this time.

Joe Gerrity: 2 years, 18 million. The second year would be a player option.

McNamara: I don’t think anybody would give Gordon more than two years guaranteed if he hit free agency this summer. I think he could get two years and $20 with a team option for a third year at another $10 million.

Smith: I doubt teams would take a long term risk on Gordon. He’d get a bunch of one year offers and then have to prove he can stay healthy for at least a season before getting a longer term deal.

5. Fact or Fiction: Eric Gordon will one day don a Pelicans jersey in a regular season game

Mason: Fact. I’m about 60/40 on this one, and I wouldn’t have a problem with the Hornets/Pelicans trading him if the price was right. That being said, by seeing how conservative they have been with him this season, I tend to think that the team plans to employ a “fully healthy” Gordon for next year’s season opener (unless, as I said, they receive an offer that they cannot refuse).

Jason: Fiction. Mr. Gordon is more valuable as a trade asset. The team has some cap space that has to be filled, but the 2014 offseason is an opportunity for the Hornets to cash in on an expected-to-be-impressive 2013-2014 season. Spending this offseason to bring in some talent, however, will clog up the works that offseason. Sending Gordon out for some talent and significant expiring contracts will give Dell just one more offseason . . . the last one . . . to make moves. Sending Gordon out this Summer maximizes the Pelicans’ time to work the angles going into that final chance to improve using cap space.

Joe: Faction. The Hornets are keeping him as healthy as possible in an attempt to maximize his value this summer, but he just hasn’t been productive. Unfortunately if he finishes the season with a 15 PER (he’s currently in the mid 14’s), and it’s still unclear if he’s able to play in back-to-backs, his value will equal jack-squat. If he can show flashes of what made him the centerpiece of the Chris Paul deal, then someone will be willing to take a chance on him, but if not I’m just not sure that Dell lets him go for nothing. So the better he plays the more likely he is to get dealt. Hear that, Gordon-bashers?

McNamara: Fiction. The only way he stays, in my opinion, is if the Hornets truly get lowballed again this summer. If they get offers anywhere close to what was rumored (Klay Thompson and Richard Jefferson), I say Dell jumps on it and starts over fresh. Monty has clearly been frustrated by having to shuffle Gordon in and out of the lineup, and these young guys need a leader in the locker room, which is something Gordon doesn’t provide. He scores, but provides little else, so moving him would not be the major step back some would claim it would be. If Dell finds a solid deal, he is gone and will not be here to soar with the rest of the ‘Cans.

Smith: Fiction. To begin March Gordon is going to have 13 games to play in 31 days, 15 games if he can do back to backs. If he can make some GM’s around the league believe the illusion that he’s actually healthy, and is ok to play in a more rigorous schedule, other GM’s will make decent offers. Finally, you don’t doubt Dealer Dell.

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