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ROOKIE REPORT
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Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Rookie Rankings: Gordon's game finding its tune

By Dave McMenamin, NBA.com
Posted Jan 7 2009 6:56PM

The rookie season can be looked at like a round song. Remember singing Row, Row, Row Your Boat as a little kid?

One group starts off from the get-go while another patiently waits for its turn. Once they get the signal, everybody is singing at the same time, but the first group is already at "life is but a dream" by the time the second group gets to "merrily, merrily, merrily."

The same thing happens every year in the NBA when a handful of top draft picks get starter's minutes in October, while others remain practice dummies until a trade, an injury or a coach's lineup decision puts them out on the court.

The Clippers' Eric Gordon, the No. 7 pick, was one of the guys who made friends with the bench before he was thrown into the fray. The 20-year old didn't manage five minutes of PT in his first four games.

Fast-forward to January and Gordon is firmly entrenched in L.A.'s starting lineup, topping 40 minutes in 10 out of his last 13 games. He's making the most with the minutes, scoring 10 or more points 12 times, 15 or more 10 times, 20 or more six times and 30 or more twice -- establishing back-to-back career highs with 31 and 32 in his last two games.

At 6-foot-3, Gordon is shorter than the average shooting guard. But his muscular frame moves well horizontally, making up for anything he's giving up vertically.

Gordon's game brings to mind the best aspects of other "undersized" guards, who did nothing but overwhelm opponents. Think Ben Gordon's stroke, Allen Iverson's quickness, Rodney Stuckey's strength and Travis Best's defense.

His scoring ability has been apparent since the preseason when he got extended playing time in his second exhibition game and flipped in six 3-pointers en route to 33 points. But his effort on the other end of the floor is what prompted coach Mike Dunleavy to give Gordon the chance to row the Clippers' boat.

"I think he's just [done] a great job defensively every single night with who we put him on," Dunleavy said. "He's been terrific defensively. That's very unusual, very rare for rookies.

"He's learned a lot."

Line of the Week
Eric Gordon (LAC)
Jan. 6 at DAL
32 points, 6 ast, 3 reb
9-18 FG, 13-15 FT

Gordon's teammate Marcus Camby just wants the league's referees to learn the rook's name so he can start getting to the line more often.

"Hopefully as we go on through this season he can start getting that respect and have it carry over year after year because he's going to be in the league a long time," Camby said.

With L.A. down to eight healthy bodies against the Pistons on Sunday, Gordon lifted his game to another level, pumping in 31 points against defensive-minded Tayshaun Prince and almost winning the game at the buzzer.

Even if Gordon has to wait to get calls from officials, that move by Pistons coach Michael Curry to put Prince on Gordon was the highest level of respect a player can get. When you draw the opposing team's best stopper, you know you've arrived.

"It definitely was the best game I've played this year, not just by scoring, but I was more poised and trying to make plays for my teammates," Gordon said after the Detroit game.

His next time out, he scored 32 against the Mavericks, made even more plays for his teammates with six assists and got to the foul line for 15 attempts.

Los Angeles lost the game, but it seems as if Gordon gained a little more respect.

There's no way to make the Clippers' 8-26 season sound good, but at least they have a rookie who has found harmony in his game.

Korleone Young Drop of the Week: M. Chalmers MIA (-4)

Eddie Gottlieb Rise of the Week: M. Gasol MEM (+3)

Overall Rankings - Week 10

1. Derrick Rose, G, Chicago
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
35
37.2
17.1 3.6
6.0
0.9 0.2 .473 .318 .798
Last Week: 1 | Drafted: 1
The bottom fell out for Rose with a dismal 1-for-6 night in a 25-point drubbing by the Cavs last week, but the No. 1 pick responded like a champ by averaging 19.0 points and 6.5 assists over his next two games, which Chicago split.

2. O.J. Mayo, G, Memphis
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
35 38.1
19.7
4.2 3.0 1.0 0.1 .451 .390 .883
Last Week: 2 | Drafted: 3
Mayo will surely be named to the first-year roster in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge game against Kevin Durant and the rest of the sophomores, but I want to see more of Mayo during All-Star Weekend. How about as a contestant in the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout? He is second amongst rookies to Golden State's Anthony Morrow in three-point percentage and his 67 made triples put him 14th in the whole league.

3. Russell Westbrook, G, Oklahoma City
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
35 30.1 14.0 4.1 4.7 1.5 0.2 .409 .314 .782
Last Week: 3 | Drafted: 4
With the stellar seasons that Rose and Mayo are having, the odds are that Westbrook won't have Rookie of the Year on his resume after this season. But, thanks to two wins in three games last week, there's a good chance that he won't have Biggest Loser on there either as the Thunder are now on pace to win more than 11 games and avoid the 9-73 record for futility held by the '72-73 Sixers.

4. Eric Gordon, G, L.A. Clippers
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
34 29.5 11.9 2.3 1.9 1.1 0.4 .449 .368 .845
Last Week: 6 | Drafted: 7
Like Mayo tried and failed to do before him this year, Gordon gets the chance to become the first rookie since Allen Iverson in 1996-97 to score 30-plus points in three straight games when the Clippers play in San Antonio on Thursday.

5. Michael Beasley, F, Miami
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
32 25.2 13.0 5.1 0.9 0.6 0.5 .448 .333 .758
Last Week: 4 | Drafted: 2
It took him 32 games, but Beasley finally registered the first double-double of his career with 15 points and 12 rebounds against the Spurs. For reference's sake, in the 33 games Beasley played as a freshman at Kansas State, the 6-9, 245-pounder collected double-digit boards 30 times.

6. D.J. Augustin, G, Charlotte
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
35 29.3 12.6 1.9 4.3 0.6 0.0 .399 .388 .921
Last Week: 7 | Drafted: 9
Augustin came up huge against the Celtics with 20 points, going 12-for-12 from the line and putting in 11 of those in overtime to seal the win. But it was D.J.'s postgame comments that could have the more lasting effect. "They come in and intimidate you and try to punk you," Augustin said. "But if you don't back down from them, they kind of fold." Know who's going to fold? Augustin when he takes a forearm shiver from one of the C's vets on April 1st in Beantown.

7. Marc Gasol, C, Memphis
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
35 29.7 11.4 6.9 1.5 0.7 1.1 .519 .000 .715
Last Week: 10 | Drafted: 48 by L.A. Lakers in 2007
While talking to a group of reporters on Sunday, Pau Gasol looked down at his phone after the Lakers played the Jazz to see a missed call from his younger brother, Marc. "I follow him very closely," Pau said. "I sacrificed my nap today to watch him play, that's how close I follow my brother. I texted him, congratulated him and told him great job. He just called me so I'll probably talk to him in a little bit." Marc has given Pau plenty of reasons to be proud lately as he's pushed his double-digit scoring streak to seven straight games.

8. Rudy Fernandez, G-F, Portland
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
34 26.4 10.9 3.2 2.0 0.9 0.2 .418 .382 .892
Last Week: 8 | Drafted: 24 by Phoenix in 2007
Rudy's scoring went up in Brandon Roy's absence, filling it up for 33 points on 6-for-7 shooting from downtown in two games against the West's top two teams, the Hornets and Lakers. I think he'd just as sure go back to his bench role however if it meant having Roy back because Portland lost both those games.

9. Mario Chalmers, G, Miami
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
33 32.0 10.0 2.8 4.6
1.9
0.1 .420 .362 0.732
Last Week: 5 | Drafted: 34
In three games last week, Chalmers was 5-for-19 from the field and 2-for-11 from three-point land. Miami lost two out of the three and Chalmers lost his perch in the top five.

10. Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey
G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG FG% 3P% FT%
35 28.5 10.1 8.0 0.8 0.6
1.9
.458 .000 .783
Last Week: 7 | Drafted: 10
Lopez totaled 35 points in two losses last week and just 10 points in two wins. Weird.
RED = Rookie Leader (Must Qualify)

The Next 10 (alphabetical order): Roy Hibbert (IND), George Hill (SAS), Kevin Love (MIN), Luc Mbah a Moute (MIL), Anthony Morrow (GSW), Greg Oden (POR), Anthony Randolph (GSW), Brandon Rush (IND), Marreese Speights (PHI), Jason Thompson (SAC)

Noteworthy

Tolliver

Anthony Tolliver (SAS) had his rookie season -- and NBA career for the time being -- come to an end as the Spurs waived him on Wednesday before his contract became guaranteed on Jan. 10. DeMarcus Nelson (GSW) was waived by the Warriors as well.
Hamed Haddadi (MEM) got off the HNPAMY list with two spot appearances against Phoenix and Dallas last week.
Kevin Love (MIN) is threatening to get back into the top 10 after averaging 14.3 points and 9.0 rebounds during the Timberwolves' current three-game winning streak.
J.J. Hickson (CLE) is somebody to keep an eye on while Zydrunas Ilgauskas is out with a bum ankle. The N.C. State product got 18 minutes of run against Chicago last week and contributed 13 points and six rebounds.

The HNPAMY (Have Not Played A Minute Yet) Club: J.R. Giddens (BOS)*, Nathan Jawai (TOR), Sonny Weems (DEN), D.J. White (OKC)
* = assigned to D-League
D-League Watch: Sonny Weems (DEN) was recalled by Denver; Walter Sharpe (DET) was assigned to Fort Wayne.


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