By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
June 7, 2012
Hornets.com continues its look back at the 2011-12 season with player-by-player analysis of the team:
There was an unmistakable what-could-have-been element to the Hornets 2011-12 season, with so many key players missing games due to injury. That feeling was significantly based on the fact that New Orleans went 6-3 in the nine games Gordon played, but just 15-42 when the shooting guard was sidelined with separate knee and back injuries. The Hornets lost a slew of low-scoring close games sans Gordon, making it painfully obvious that they needed a go-to offensive player who could help avoid a string of 83-81 and 90-88 defeats.
The Hornets were 13-40 overall when Gordon returned to the floor after a three-month absence April 4 vs. Denver, but went 8-5 the rest of the way. He immediately made an tangible impact, scoring 15 points in a victory over the playoff-bound Nuggets. Two days later, Gordon racked up a Hornets-high 31 points at San Antonio, although the Wests No. 1 team rolled to a victory.
While being shuffled in and out of the mix due to concerns about his back, the Hornets won four consecutive games with Gordon in uniform, beating Minnesota, Utah, Memphis and Houston from April 7-19. All told, Gordon-led New Orleans defeated three playoff teams (Nuggets, Jazz, Grizzlies) and three others who were in the West postseason race for much of the season (Suns, Timberwolves, Rockets).
The Indiana University product tallied at least 15 points in six of his seven April games, providing the Hornets with the scoring punch they needed to effectively play the role of late-season spoiler. Hes made an incredible difference, Jason Smith said of Gordons impact. Hes given us a whole other dimension to the team. When you have a guy you dont have to run a play for, thats something weve missed all season.
I enjoy playing with him, because he takes pressure off me, said backcourtmate Greivis Vasquez. He can create and get a shot. He can do a lot of things. Its always fun playing with a guy like that. I played in Memphis, and you could always throw the ball to Zach (Randolph) or Rudy (Gay) those guys are superstars. Thats no different than Eric Gordon.
The April 13 victory over Utah was memorable for Hornets fans in more ways than one. In addition to the news that an agreement had been reached for a local owner to purchase the team earlier that day, New Orleans also put together one of its finest victories of the season. For Gordon, it was an outstanding illustration of his ability to take over a game.
During the fourth quarter of a 96-85 triumph against the Jazz, the Hornets basically cleared out one side of the floor and let Gordon operate one-on-one against his defender, first Gordon Hayward and then Paul Millsap. He scored eight points in a span of just 91 seconds, including a conventional three-point play, a deep trey from beyond the arc and a stepback jumper. Gordons barrage allowed the Hornets to expand their lead from 86-82 to 94-82 with just 2:18 remaining. New Orleans went on to register a 96-85 verdict.
That gives you a great insight into what he can do, Smith said minutes after Gordons individual display. Hes an amazing player. We missed his presence. Hes a big part of our team. When you have someone like that who can score at will You just get out of his way.
Gordon will be a restricted free agent on July 1. Based on his restricted FA status, the Hornets will have the opportunity to match any offer sheet the player receives from another NBA team. For his part, Gordon told reporters multiple times during the teams hot April that he believes he can help make New Orleans a winning team in the future.
We have a good group of guys here, a good, young core, he said. The future is bright here. I think I can help any team. If Im here, Im definitely going to look forward to this organization winning games. I know Im capable of helping this team. I know that probably without me, its up in the air sometimes. Sometimes were in games (but not finishing them). Its a good nucleus of guys and a great coaching staff. I really admire this coaching staff. Well see what happens this summer.
With Gordon unavailable for such a large chunk of the season, Hornets head coach Monty Williams was repeatedly asked if the team had seen enough from Gordon to feel confident about signing him to a long-term contract. Williams answer was based partly off previous experience as a Portland assistant coach, where Williams watched numerous Blazers-Clippers games during Gordons first two NBA seasons.
I had a good look at (Gordon) when I was in Portland, Williams said. I was always scouting guys who had to play against (then All-Star shooting guard) Brandon Roy. (Gordon) was one of the few guys that never backed down from Brandon. He would go right at Brandon, defensively and offensively. Ive seen the same thing in New Orleans. Im happy about what Ive seen from him. Have I seen enough from Eric? Ive seen enough from him for a long time.
|ADDITIONAL 2011-12 SEASON IN REVIEWS|
|JASON SMITH||JARRETT JACK||GUSTAVO AYON|
|MARCO BELINELLI||LANCE THOMAS||XAVIER HENRY|
|EMEKA OKAFOR||CHRIS KAMAN||ERIC GORDON|
|GREIVIS VASQUEZ||AL-FAROUQ AMINU||TREVOR ARIZA|
blog comments powered by Disqus