BG Ready to Bounce Back

Gordon: Barring injuries, "we're definitely a playoff team"

Ben Gordon thinks the Pistons would have been a playoff team without all of the injuries they suffered last season.
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The line between explaining the reality of one’s circumstances and making excuses is a hard one to walk, never more so than under the scrutiny professional athletes face.

Pistons guard Ben Gordon tiptoed that line for six months (on a busted ankle, no less), publicly holding himself and his teammates responsible for Detroit’s disappointing 27-55 record – but knowing full well what the fans didn’t want to hear: the players were too beat up to reach their potential.

“Actually I think the team we had last year was more than good enough to be a playoff team. It’s just the injuries, you know,” Gordon said Wednesday while meeting fans at a Meijer store in Grand Rapids. “You can have all the best players, but if nobody’s healthy, you’re probably not going to make it.”

Gordon spoke candidly about his frustrating first season in Detroit but also exuded confidence that the Pistons, like his surgically repaired left ankle, would be at full strength when training camp opens in October.

“I’m definitely looking forward to next season,” he said. “I’m looking forward to us kind of redeeming ourselves and getting back to playing the way we know we can.”

Gordon saw ‘surprising’ surgery coming

The Pistons’ slew of injuries began on opening night and snared Gordon on Nov. 25 when he severely sprained his left ankle against Cleveland. Gordon had scored 18 or more points 11 times in his first 14 games as a Piston.

Gordon returned a week later to face his former team, Chicago, which may have complicated the injury. He scored 18 painful points but wasn’t the same again until the final week of the season.

Gordon, who also incurred a slight groin tear which he says has fully healed, played in a career-low 62 games and saw his scoring average plummet to 13.8 points, one of several career-low numbers for the former NBA Sixth Man of the Year.

“It made it really frustrating just because I wasn’t where I wanted to be physically and able to do the things I normally do,” said Gordon, who averaged 20.2 points from 2007-09. “This is a business where you can’t make excuses, but it doesn’t mean everybody’s not affected by (injuries).”

Few outside the organization, however, realized how affected Gordon had been until it was announced April 28 that the 27-year-old had undergone surgery to remove bone spurs from the ankle.

Gordon revealed Wednesday he had been talking to Pistons trainer Arnie Kander about undergoing the procedure “throughout the season.”

“It’s a problem that we were aware of. It was just a matter of time. I pretty much knew I was going to get it,” he said. “Just had to wait until the season was over so I could have the necessary time to heal.”

Gordon is happy to report he’s ahead of schedule and already conducting non-basketball drills with Kander at the Pistons practice facility. The cast he was expected to wear for three weeks lasted only half as long, and he’s already out of his walking boot.

Gordon aims to be “110 percent” by training camp, and he’s optimistic about playing as early as mid-July for his native Great Britain in the FIBA World Championships and preceding tournaments.

“I think it’s something different and I still get to hone my game, work on my game at a high level, so definitely looking forward to it,” said Gordon, who was quick to add he won’t play if the ankle isn’t ready.

Physically limited on the court, Gordon felt even more stifled when asked why the team had fallen so short of expectations, especially after he had signed a five-year, $55 million contract last summer.

“I think the most frustrating part is even though nobody really made excuses, it’s still something you have to deal with,” Gordon said.

“You know how it is, going to work, you’re not feeling so well. You don’t want to make excuses but you can’t help but acknowledge that. … Nobody’s making excuses but at the same time it is an issue and it impacted us in a big way.”

Gordon recognized the Pistons, even in perfect health, had their limitations, specifically in regards to the type of frontcourt presence Joe Dumars is expected to target with the No. 7 pick in the NBA Draft.

“The players feel like that would help the team and obviously Joe and the front office, I think they see some of the same things we see,” he said.

Are the Pistons tough enough?

Gordon draws the line when people say the Pistons let injuries serve as an excuse to give up on games. What some perceived as a lack of effort, in Gordon’s opinion, was a lack of cohesiveness begot by injuries.

“I really don’t believe that,” he said. “Because every night, the way we approached the game, guys went out there and I felt that we played hard. Did it always come together? Were we consistent at it? No, we weren’t. I’ve never seen this many injuries on a team, on any level.”

When Dumars stated to a media gathering last week that the Pistons needed to rediscover their toughness, Gordon said he didn’t take that as an indictment of the players currently in the locker room.

“I absolutely agree with him,” Gordon said. “I don’t think when he said ‘toughness’ he meant any one thing. I think it’s kind of a combination of a bunch of things. He definitely hit the nail on the head with that.”

In fact, Gordon believes there’s some good to come from the disappointment and disarray of the 2009-10 season: all the returning players will come back with “a chip on their shoulder” to ensure they don’t repeat it.

“I think this season, if you take away the injuries and stuff, without a doubt in my mind, we’re definitely a playoff team,” he said. “Going in, just with the talent that we have, it’s hard for me to think anything less of the team.”