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Steve Aschburner

The Hornets are banking on the return of Eric Gordon to propel them up the Western Conference standings.

Gordon's aching knee a sore spot for Hornets


Posted Oct 12, 2012 6:34 PM

Bodies at rest tend to stay at rest and bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force. Newton's First Law of Motion, right? More pertinent to the NBA, though, is Walton's First Law of Injury (a.k.a. Anfernee's, d.b.a. Oden's): Bodies that are hurt tend to stay in motion right back to the trainer's room.

Knowing this, the New Orleans Hornets would love for guard Eric Gordon to become a lawbreaker just as soon as he possibly can.

Gordon is hurt again -- same knee, same pain that sidelined him for all but nine games last season. He has not participated in any contact work, he was scratched from the Hornets' three preseason games this week and he might not get seriously basketball-busy until the week leading up to the season opener against San Antonio on Halloween night.

The Hornets, in other words, have almost as much riding on what's left of October as the DNC and the RNC. If Gordon is ready and able, New Orleans' aspirations for a quick and dramatic turnaround from its 21-45 finish (tied for second-worst in the NBA) might be legit and, soon enough, realized.

If not, much of the excitement over top draft picks Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, free-agent addition Ryan Anderson and rookies such as Brian Roberts or Darius Miller could be undercut by the basketball and financial frustrations of Gordon's body-at-rest.

Remember, the whole point of the NBA's awkward deal-oops-no-deal hesitation move with Chris Paul last December was that the Hornets could reap more in trading the league's premier point guard than the package of players (Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola) and picks offered by the Lakers and the Rockets. The Clippers came through with that, ponying up Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and the 2012 first-rounder that became Rivers.

And yet, 10 months later, Paul is in Los Angeles, Odom still is there too and Gordon, because he's been hobbled, has done little to justify the deal. He played two games early last season, seven near the end. The Hornets did go 6-3 in those games and the shooting guard did post typically Gordonesque averages (20.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.4 apg, 45 FG pct). But the end games served mostly as an April auditon for restricted free agency, in which he still landed a max salary contract worth $58.3 million.

That was the offer sheet Gordon signed with Phoenix, the number he locked into with the Hornets when they matched the Suns' bid (and ignored Gordon's clumsy comments about his "heart" suddenly being in Phoenix).

Well, what d'ya know. That old sports saying about "Sometimes the best trade is the one you don't make" appears to have an RFA corollary. "Sometimes the best offer sheet is the one that gets matched." The last thing the Suns need in their post-Steve Nash rebuild is a $14 million a year shooting guard who doesn't even sit on the bench in street clothes during games, he's so heavy into treatment. For arthroscopic surgery he had eight months ago.

"You have to be careful with injured players," one NBA head coach said recently about Gordon. "There's a reason some guys always get injured. He wasn't healthy even before last season."

It's true. Gordon has missed 103 of a possible 230 games the past three seasons, putting his durability in doubt long before two teams agreed to pay him $58 million.

He has other things to prove with the Hornets when he does return. For one, that he can play up to the numbers on his paychecks. The scoring is nice but his career shooting percentages -- 45.0, 37.0 and 80.7 -- all need boosts. Also, Gordon needs to win back the allegiance and trust of New Orleans fans while demonstrating the sort of leadership expected of a squad's best and most highly compensated performer.

None of that happens, though, until Gordon gets healthy. He's a body at rest that desperately needs to be put into motion.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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