Changes aplenty in the Big Easy, and Gordon's ready
By Fran Blinebury, for NBA.com
POSTED: Oct 22, 2013 12:30 AM ET
Finally injury free, Eric Gordon is one of the constants amid the changes wrought in New Orleans.
Oh, the changes they've made in the Big Easy.
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First there was Anthony Davis as the No. 1 pick in the 2012 who could provide a new foundation to the franchise.
Then there was the shocking 2013 draft night deal that sent the No. 6 pick Nerlens Noel to Philly for budding All-Star Jrue Holiday.
Then there was the sign-and-trade deal with the Kings to bring in big-time offensive gun Tyreke Evans.
Of course, there was even the change of names from the misplaced Hornets to the state bird Pelicans.
And through it all, there stood Eric Gordon looking to make a change of his own -- by actually playing.
"Yeah, this is the first time that I have felt very good in about two years for sure since I've been here," the 6-foot-3 guard said on media day at the Pelicans' brand new training facility in Metairie, La. "Since I have been here I have been injured here and there and had surgeries each year. So it's the first time that I've been healthy since I've been here."
He came to New Orleans from the Clippers as part of the league-mandated compensation in the Chris Paul trade and was supposed to be a big part of the healing process for a team that lost its biggest start. But by playing only 51 of 164 games over the past two seasons, Gordon's presence has instead been like a scab getting constantly ripped off a wound.
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After playing just nine games in his first season in New Orleans, Gordon let it be known that he'd be happy to leave town when he signed a $58-million free agent offer sheet with the Suns and said publicly that he preferred to be in Phoenix. When the erstwhile Hornets matched the offer, he tried to mend the fences, but then missed half of last season that concluded with ankle surgery.
There has always been confidence in his offensive ability. He's a career 18-point-a-game scorer during his five NBA seasons. He's but now the question is whether Gordon will be able to thrive -- even co-exist -- in a backcourt trio with Holiday and Evans that has no lack of want-to and ego.
For now, coach Monty Williams says that Gordon and Holiday will start and Evans will be the firepower off the bench. How things sort out down the line will have to be seen, but Williams is simply happy to finally have Gordon healthy and ready to play. Toss in Austin Rivers, who is trying to bounce back from a disappointing rookie season, and the Pelicans could be four-deep at guard. But a lot of it depends on Gordon mentally and physically. It's one thing for his ankle and knee to hold up. It's another to get him committed to program and there doubts within the organization about that within the past year.
"I'm just happy everyone is healthy," said Pelicans general manager Dell Demps.
Williams said he thinks the three-headed rotation of scoring guards can work due to the versatility of the 6-6 Evans, who can play both backcourt positions and swing down to the small forward spot.
"We talked to him about that this summer and it wasn't an issue for him," Williams said. "I don't think guys worry about that anymore. I think they are more concerned with the minutes, if the minutes are still where they could be. I'd like to get him in for 28 to 30 minutes a game. That would be optimum for us. That would keep him fresh, but also keep him on the floor."
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There is reason to think that after two dreadful seasons at the bottom of the standings, the Pelicans are at a point where they can begin to think about a climb back toward the playoffs. Yet so much of it begins with keeping Gordon on the floor with good wheels and in the right frame of mind. He is still tied to the Pelicans for three seasons and $44 million.
Gordon entered training camp coming off a full-time commitment to a rehab program over the summer that had his strengthening his ankle and knee with exercises and drills, yet never did live scrimmaging.
Despite his public comments in the summer of 2012 about his preference to jump to start over in Phoenix, Gordon insisted that he's content in New Orleans.
"The only frustrating part since I've been down here is dealing with injuries," he said. "That's the main thing. I know what I can do and this team knows what I can do. Now I am finally going to get a chance to make it consistent.
"I've always been happy. It's just with me individually, I've always been dealing with injuries and so forth. But when you have a lot of talented guys where you can have a chance to grow together ... anything can happen. And we have the talent to be a playoff team."
Pelicans Season Preview: Best/Worst
1. The stakes and intensity around the franchise have risen with the arrival of new owner Tom Benson. He changed the name and wants a change in results now.
2. With three high-powered backcourt scorers in Gordon, Holiday and Evans, the Pelicans need to put the pedal to the metal and let them thrive in the open court.
3. Coach Monty Williams has been hanging his hat on a defensive reputation since arriving in N.O., but the Pelicans ranked 28th in getting it done at that end last season.
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