Eric Gordon: We Loved You, You’re Terrific, Now Leave

Published: February 14, 2013

The time has come for the Hornets and Eric Gordon to go their separate ways and it finally feels like everybody is starting to realize it. Fans, writers, management, coaches, and probably even Eric Gordon himself. The two sides have tried to work it out, as GM Dell Demps and Coach Monty Williams said all the right things this summer when they praised Gordon endlessly, calling him their best player and a franchise cornerstone. Even Gordon backpedaled from his July statements in recent months, saying that he was happy to be in New Orleans and he would give his all for this franchise.

But at the end of the day, it’s simply not enough. This team is moving in one direction and Gordon just doesn’t seem to fit in with the culture Dell and Monty are trying to install. Look at the player that Monty points to time and time again as the heart and soul of the team- Jason Smith. He is playing with a torn labrum. Not a bruise or a sprain, a TORN labrum in his shoulder. He can easily choose to shut it down, after all the Hornets are going anywhere this season. But instead, he is going to play through it and have surgery in the offseason. That is the type of player Monty and Dell want here. Eric Gordon, meanwhile, sprains his hand in practice and not only does he miss the game, but he doesn’t even support his team on the bench.  (update: According to a team official, Gordon wanted to play, but was advised not to on Wednesday night).

It’s time for a change. But before we move forward, let’s dispel some rhetoric that I don’t think applies to this conversation.

He Doesn’t Want to Be Here

Quite frankly, who cares? Even if this is true, it doesn’t matter. He has a contract with this organization and it is in his best interest to play and play well so that he can earn the next contract. Anti-Gordon fans often bring up this argument, which allows Pro-Gordon people to attack this claim, while ignoring the real issues. So please, let’s not bring this up anymore. It doesn’t matter on either side. A GM would not make a decision based on this factor, so neither will we.

Dell Couldn’t Just Let Him Go This Summer

First of all, why not? People say that, “You are just losing an asset for nothing.” No you’re not. You are letting a guy leave without a $58 million dollar contract on your books, so you would lose him and gain over $13 million in cap space. “But we can’t get good players to come here, so what good is the cap space?” This is the next poor argument. To which I reply, “Dell Demps took $13 million dollars this summer and used it to bring in Robin Lopez and Ryan Anderson. Now let me ask you this- would you rather have Lopez and Anderson or Eric Gordon?” Dell has made terrific moves when given wiggle room. Bad contracts like Gordon prevents him from working other magic. So, it wouldn’t have been going for nothing, it would have been Gordon leaving and flexibility coming to Demps. I guarantee he could have used that $13 million to bring in guys that would have helped more than Gordon did this season.

Eric Gordon’s Injury’s Are Not Related

People seemed to hang onto this one for a really long time as proof that he can be injury free moving forward, but it feels like almost everybody is finally on the same page now. The guy is tissue paper. ESPN’s David Thorpe came on our podcast last May and said that some guys had bodies that just could not withstand the NBA game and that he believed Gordon was one of these guys. Can anybody seriously argue otherwise with anything other than blind optimism? The evidence is crystal clear. In four of his five NBA seasons, he has missed significant time due to a bevy of different injuries. No, they are not related, but he is incredibly susceptable to injuries, and that might be even worse.

So now that we have got some of those issues out of the way, let’s me be clear in why I say it is necessary for Dell to move Gordon now that there seems to be some interest around the league. Quite simply, you cannot afford to have an oft-injured max player on a small market team that is rebuilding for numerous reasons. For one, the new CBA has made luxury tax far more punitive, so much so that that $70 million tax line is essentially a hard cap for a team like New Orleans. Eric Gordon’s contract takes up almost 20% Dell’s budget. You can’t give that big of a piece of the pie to a guy who is never around to eat it.

Two, he destroys on court team chemistry with all the games that he misses. You look at a young team like Oklahoma City who started where the Hornets are at now and blossomed into a championship contender, and you see a team that has played together and built chemistry because their core guys didn’t miss games. Even if Gordon “only” misses 25 or 30 games a year, that completely destroys any opportunity to get team roles and chemistry down the way that elite teams have it down. One day Vasquez is the lead guard and Rivers is starting, then Gordon comes back and Vasquez plays less aggressive and Rivers comes off the bench, then Gordon goes down again and players have to adjust and on and on. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but the elite young teams don’t do that. Veteran teams who have played together forever like San Antonio can afford to, but not New Orleans.

Finally, Gordon’s presence on the roster but not on the court or even in the locker room, leaves this franchise without a true focal point. Eric Gordon is the best player, but he’s not a leader and he is never on the court. Who are the players supposed to look to? How is Anthony Davis going to make this his team if Gordon is hanging around and making 2-3 times his salary? Here, more than anywhere else, trading Eric Gordon is addition by subtraction. Build this team around Davis or get a young veteran in here that has leadership skills and whose game is good enough to earn that level of respect in the locker room. Eric Gordon is not that guy.

So now that it is clear (to me at least) that Gordon should be moved, and it looks like the fan base is nearly 100% on board from what I see on Twitter, message boards, and other sites, let’s address the final issue. Should we move him now when his trade value might not be at its highest? Well, first of all, the fact that numerous teams are interested tells me that he at least has some value. Does he have as much value as he would if he were healthy the last two years and playing great? Of course not. But let’s not act like his trade value can only go up.

Again, I repeat, Eric Gordon has been injured four of his five years in the league and they seem to be getting more and more serious. His value is relatively low now, but can you imagine what it will be if (and when) he suffers another injury? What if he needs microfracture surgery- an option that was discussed last year? People will say that this is a pessimist’s view, but I call it reality. How do you best predict the future? By looking to the past, and the past tells you that injuries pile up with this guy. Put it this way, if we found a guy who has been healthy four of the past five years, what would you predict was in store for him next year? Of course you would predict health. So, when you flip it, why is it pessimistic to predict injury?

So, I argue that even though his value is low, it is time to sell before it gets lower. It is time to rid this franchise of the albatross that is weighing down its future financial flexibility and take the best offer on the table. He is a very good player, and by all accounts a fine human being, but this is the business of basketball and all the facts lead to Dell only reaching one conclusion- Eric Gordon has to go.




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