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No. 1 pick Anthony Davis will play a large part in taking the burden off Eric Gordon.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images

Gordon stays in fold, eager to help Hornets rebuild

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com
Posted Oct 16 2012 2:22PM

One look at those long arms, great speed, excellent reaction time and defensive instincts is all it takes for anyone in New Orleans to be happy to have Anthony Davis in town.

Nobody more than Eric Gordon.

While Davis, the No. 1 pick in the draft, already has the overwrought hyperbole machine whispering the comparisons to Bill Russell, he is more than a franchise foundation.

For Gordon, he is cover.

Every time that Davis chases down an opponent from behind to block a shot at the end of a would-be fastbreak, jaws will be dropping and tongues will be wagging about the Rookie of the Year candidate big man and not the guard who tried to spurn the Hornets over the summer.

Gordon, of course, was not the first restricted free agent to sign a contract with another team only to have it matched. And Gordon is not the first free agent to sign one of those deals and then say that he was ready to move on to a new location and a new start.

But after the Hornets made good on their word to match any offer that he received -- which in this case was $58 million over four years from the Suns -- it is now his burden.

"Hopefully it won't be (a bad) reaction," Gordon told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "I don't know what kind of reaction, to be honest. Hopefully it will be a good one, and these four years will be better than my last four. Or that these years to come will be my best, since I'm still young and growing.

"We have a lot of young talented players who will be very good for us. This is a long-term process; it's not a year or two where we're going to be a championship caliber of team. I'm just looking forward to being in the playoffs this year and many more years of possibly getting a championship."

Playoffs? Well, pardon the exuberance.

After being brought back into the fold, Gordon has gone on the offensive trying to put salve on what he knows could be hurt feelings on the part of some Hornets fans. Maybe it was just part of the business of professional sports for Gordon to say that his heart was in Phoenix and that he did not want to return to New Orleans. But fans don't often care about the business.

General manager Dell Demps has said all along that the Hornets are expecting big things from Gordon. He has gone so far as to call him the foundation of the franchise, even though the potential of Davis burns so bright.

The truth is the Hornets were expecting big things from Gordon a year ago when he came to them as part of the package received from the Clippers in the hurry-up trade for All-Star Chris Paul. In fact, it was the insistence by the commissioner David Stern's office that the Hornets receive elite level young talent such as Gordon that cause the cancellation of the original trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers. The belief was that he would be the big gun of the offense, a 20-point-a-game scorer.

But Gordon's potential as a jewel in the lineup was ruined when he suffered a right knee injury and wound up playing in just nine games all of last season. He was the key player that Hornets fans had been counting on to replace Paul as the centerpiece and the fact that he barely played did little to engender sympathy when he signed the offer sheet in Phoenix and made the comments that were perceived to be disloyal.

However, if Gordon had not been injured and missed a lion's share of the season, the Hornets may not have finished at the very bottom of the Western Conference standings and therefore would not have had as many chances to land Davis in the draft lottery. Instead of one potential young All-Star, now they have two.

"He's here, he's a Hornet," Demps said. "I know he's a professional and is going to bring his all."

Yet, at least from the start, it will be Gordon's added burden.

Three Points

1. While getting rights to Davis was lottery jackpot, it was just as critical to match free agent offer to keep Gordon as his partner.

2. For all the attention paid to young talent, GM Dell Demps and coach Monty Williams are just as valuable assets.

3. Don't sleep on the acquisition of Ryan Anderson. His outside shot will make things easier for everyone in the offense.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. 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.

AT A GLANCE

LAST YEAR: 21-45, 5th in Southwest

FINISH: Missed playoffs

2011-12 Regular Season Standings

2011-12 TEAM LEADERS

Eric Gordon

20.6 PPG

Emeka Okafor

7.9 RPG

Jarrett Jack

6.3 APG

2011-12 STATISTICS

 OFFENSEDEFENSE
PPG89.693.4
RPG41.140.0
APG20.720.9
FG %0.4510.444
3PT %0.3330.317
FT %0.7570.759
 Complete 2011-12 Stats 
STARTING FIVE

GREIVIS VASQUEZ, POINT GUARD

8.9 PPG | 2.6 RPG | 5.4 APG

Likely keeping the seat warm until Rivers steps in, Vazquez proved to be a capable point guard last season, recording seven or more assists in 22 games.

ERIC GORDON, SHOOTING GUARD

20.6 PPG | 2.8 RPG | 3.4 APG

Re-signing free agent Gordon was key to the Hornets' chances of respectability this season. If he can stay healthy, he's a streak shooter who score virtually at will.

AL-FAROUQ AMINU, SMALL FORWARD

6.0 PPG | 4.7 RPG | 1.0 APG

Young and raw, the 8th pick in the 2010 draft proved to be a valuable defensive stopper and slasher on the wings in the Hornets' lineups late last season.

RYAN ANDERSON, POWER FORWARD

9.6 PPG | 4.6 RPG | 0.8 APG

Last year's Most Improved Player winner in Orlando, Anderson's 3-point shooting and overall efficient play will space the floor for Gordon, Davis and the rest.

ANTHONY DAVIS, CENTER

Rookie

A potential superstar at both ends who's drawn comparisons to Kevin Garnett and (gasp) Bill Russell, Davis can take the Hornets places ... or at least make them more exciting to watch.

RESERVES
NAMEHTWTPOSCOMMENT
Robin Lopez7-0255CYoung center helps immediately and has plenty of upside.
Austin Rivers6-4200PGHe'll have to work through growing pains learning the point.
Darius Miller6-8235SFSome think second-round pick could be a steal of draft.
 Complete Roster 
OFFSEASON MOVES

ADDED: C Anthony Davis, G Austin Rivers, F Darius Miller, F Ryan Anderson, C Robin Lopez, F Hakim Warrick

LOST:  G Jarrett Jack, G/F Trevor Ariza, C Emeka Okafor, F/C Gustavo Ayon, G Marco Belinelli, F Carl Landry, C Chris Kaman, G Jerome Dyson

MAN ON THE SPOT

ERIC GORDON, SHOOTING GUARD

This could be a break-out season for Gordon. The Hornets have invested a good portion of time and money into the fifth-year scorer, who will be looked to for big production on a young team.

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