Magic Add Veteran Presence to Young Team
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By John Denton
July 11, 2014
ORLANDO -- In a move that will allow them to add a veteran presence and some proven outside shooting, the Orlando Magic have signed shooting guard Ben Gordon to a free-agent contract.
Gordon, 31, is hoping to revitalize his career after playing just 19 games and getting waived late last season by the playoff-bound Charlotte Bobcats. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Gordon has twice averaged more than 20 points in a season and he has a career scoring average of 15.6 points per game.
``I’m really excited. This is going to be my 11th year in the league and every time that you go into a new opportunity, it’s a great opportunity,’’ Gordon said Friday in Orlando. ``I’m just looking to revitalize myself here and assist the young guys. They have a lot of young talent and they just need some veteran guys to help them along the way. I’m looking to contribute and looking forward to this being a great opportunity.’’
Gordon’s signing was announced on Friday, the second day in which free agents are allowed by the NBA to officially ink deals with teams. Gordon and the Magic reached the parameters of a deal last week during the free-agent courting period and the contract was signed on Thursday in Orlando. The contract is a two-year deal with a team option on the second season.
Gordon said his past relationships working with Magic Assistant GMs Scott Perry in Detroit and Matt Lloyd in Chicago played a big role in him picking Orlando among several suitors.
``Working with those two in Chicago and Detroit, they knew what kind of person I was, my work ethic and what I bring to the table,’’ Gordon said. ``They showed some interest right away and I couldn’t turn down this opportunity.’’
The Magic also introduced Willie Green, who was claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Clippers. The Magic have been tracking Green’s career for years and they feel he can be a boon to the team with his leadership in the locker room and his toughness on the floor.
``I take that (leadership role) very seriously,’’ Green said. ``For all of the guys who are blessed to play 10-plus years in this league, it took other veterans wrapping their arms around them and showing them the ropes for them to be successful. The young guys here are already hard workers – we know that from playing them – so the base is there. So now it’s about surrounding those guys with good people and good players. We all have the same goals.’’
The Magic lost two of their best perimeter scorers from last season when they traded Arron Afflalo on draft night and released veteran point guard Jameer Nelson last week. Gordon joins two-year veteran Evan Fournier and rookies Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton and Devyn Marble as newcomers on the Magic.
Gordon is a career 40.2 percent shooter from 3-point range. He has shot higher than 40 percent from beyond the 3-point stripe in seven of his 10 NBA seasons.
``I think I’m still able to shoot the ball really well,’’ Gordon said. ``With this team we don’t know what our roles are going to be, but I feel like I can still really shoot the ball and that’s something that never gets old in the NBA.’’
Gordon brings some much-needed outside shooting to a Magic team that made just 35.3 percent of its 3-point shots last season. The Magic’s 35.3 percent shooting ranked 21st in the 30-team NBA last season.
Gordon should be comfortable playing in a reserve role for the Magic while mentoring standout guard Victor Oladipo, Payton and Fournier. Gordon won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award in 2005 and he’s been widely considered to be one of the league’s best scorers off the bench for years.
Gordon averaged 18.2 points per game during his first five seasons in the NBA while playing for the Chicago Bulls. He averaged career bests in points (21.4 ppg.) and assists (3.6 apg.) in the 2006-07 season.
Following a 2008-09 season in which he averaged 20.7 points per game, he left the Bulls to sign a $55 million free agent contract with the Detroit Pistons. But Gordon never fully meshed with former Detroit coaches John Kuester and Lawrence Frank and his statistics took a nosedive.
Detroit dealt Gordon to Charlotte in 2009, a move that cost the Pistons a first-round pick in last month’s NBA Draft. Gordon didn’t fare much better in Charlotte where his long-range shot and effectiveness off the bench left him. This past season, Gordon rarely played and saw his scoring average dip to 5.2 points per game.
Now, Gordon is hoping to revitalize his NBA career in Orlando. He should get plenty of chances with the Magic to show that he can be a reliable veteran and a player capable of knocking down big shots from the perimeter.
``It’s been tough knowing that you can contribute more on the court and not seeing it materialize,’’ Gordon said of his drop off in production in Detroit and Charlotte. ``Being around for 10 years, the league is about being in a system where you can flourish. With this opportunity here, from what I have been talking to Coach (Jacque) Vaughn and some of the other executives, the way that we’re going to play it’s going to be a good opportunity for me to flourish and us to be successful.’’