Pelicans Offseason Update: Eric Gordon

Leading up to the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27, will provide a player-by-player examination of the New Orleans Pelicans, with input from various sources. We’ll review the 2012-13 campaign of each New Orleans player who appeared in at least half of the team’s games, while also looking ahead to the inaugural 2013-14 Pelicans season. continues its offseason updates by profiling Eric Gordon, who finished the 2012-13 season as New Orleans’ leading scorer:

Eric Gordon
Key averages: 17.0 points, 3.3 assists, 1.1 steals in 42 games

For a second straight season since joining New Orleans in a December 2011 trade, injuries prevented Gordon from making his projected impact. The shooting guard missed the first 29 games of the regular season due to a bone bruise in his right knee; the team went just 6-23 in his absence. However, New Orleans immediately benefited from his return to the lineup in late December. The team had easily its best stretch of the campaign from Jan. 5-21, when it went 7-2, including a season-high four-game winning streak. Prior to the All-Star break, New Orleans was actually above .500 when Gordon was on the floor, at 10-8 overall. That span included victories over 2013 playoff qualifiers San Antonio, Houston, Boston, Memphis and Atlanta. Gordon was held out of back-to-back games as the team attempted to keep him healthy and in position to enter the 2013 offseason without any nagging physical concerns. The tactic achieved the desired end result, but Gordon admitted that it made it difficult at times to get into a rhythm. Gordon’s ability to be a difference-maker was evidenced by him scoring 20-plus points 17 times over his 42 appearances, despite minute restrictions. He also averaged 5.3 foul shots per game, which led by the club by a significant margin.

Gordon scored a season-high 27 points in New Orleans’ 111-100 victory at Atlanta on Feb. 8, one of the team’s most impressive road wins of 2012-13. The five-year pro turned in an efficient performance by going 10-for-19 from the field and 6-for-6 from the foul line, mixing in accurate jumpers with drives to the hoop. You could also make a case that Gordon’s best performance was his first one – he had 24 points and seven assists in his Dec. 29 return to action, making him the MVP of a 98-95 triumph at Charlotte.

“It was a tough adjustment. You’re coming back and not even at 100 percent and fighting through that. Then dealing with minor issues with me knee and my back, and just different things along the way, and you’re trying to find your groove also… Then you come into a game and you have restrictions, where you have a set time where you’re (on the floor) each quarter. I’m mostly doing the things that I’m used to doing, as far as scoring, moving my feet on defense and getting to the free-throw line. The main thing for me is to just get back to 100 percent (by 2013) training camp. That’s what I will strive for and what I look forward to.” – Eric Gordon “This is a summer for him to really get healthy and get better, so that next year he’s at full clip. That’s what we anticipate, and that’s probably why (doctors) put these (back-to-back availability and minutes) restrictions on him, to get him to the summertime, so he can fully recover from the (knee) surgery. I think he will be (100 percent). The thing we have to do is manage his rest time and have a full summer with him.” - Monty Williams What were the biggest differences in the team when Eric Gordon played compared to when he was out of the lineup?

“Mainly, Gordon gave the team another offensive option, often times its best offensive option. The Pelicans struggled to score last season and didn’t generate a lot of easy baskets. Gordon’s ability to create in one-on-one situations provided an avenue through which he, or a teammate, could score, especially when he attacked the rim. However, he never quite shook off all the rust from not playing the first 29 games of the season, as well as not participating in training camp or preseason. What we saw were flashes of the kind of player he can be when totally healthy.” - Radio analyst John DeShazier