Eric Gordon happy to experience normal, healthy offseason

by Jim Eichenhofer

Whether it was an unexpected last-minute trade in December 2011 or injuries the following two summers that prevented or curtailed his workouts, Eric Gordon has yet to experience an optimal lead-up to an NBA season in the Crescent City. That’s finally changed in 2014 for the shooting guard, who’s been 100 percent since getting back on the basketball court in June.

The six-year NBA veteran plans to spend the remainder of the offseason in New Orleans, working out with his teammates. It’s a luxury the 25-year-old has not had in the recent past, as he’s dealt with health issues. On April 16, Gordon underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, but he describes the procedure as “a minor cleanup.” He’s been fully healthy since his return to playing two months ago.

“It’s been a great summer,” said Gordon, a guest on Wednesday’s Black and Blue Report podcast show. “I’ve been mostly healthy throughout the summer. The month of June, I was back on the court, starting to work out. After that, it was smooth sailing.”

Early in his pro career, Gordon developed a reputation as a feared penetrator to the basket, part of the reason he averaged a career-best 22.3 points in 2010-11 with the Los Angeles Clippers. His scoring average has decreased each season since, which Gordon attributes partly to injuries. He has been limited to nine, 42 and 64 games in his three New Orleans seasons, respectively. He’s focused this summer on regaining the quickness and athleticism he displayed as a promising 21-year-old who played for the 2010 USA Basketball team that won gold at the FIBA world championship.

“That’s what I’ve really been working on, explosiveness to the rim, trying to beat people (off the dribble),” he said. “I don’t think I was very consistent, because with all of the injuries, it would slow me down at times, because I would be so hesitant to make a move or even explode to the basket at times. It’s always good to have that mentality where you can beat people off the dribble without even thinking about that injury, just having that mindset that you’re unguardable… Each season’s been getting better the past two or three years. This year has been well because I’ve actually been able to work out as hard and as long as I want to, during the summer. So it’s been a lot better.”

A return to early-career form by Gordon could go a long way toward New Orleans (34-48 last season) achieving its goal of contending for a playoff berth and emerging as one of the NBA’s most improved teams. Gordon actually appeared in 64 of the Pelicans’ first 68 games last season, but various injuries to other teammates prevented the club from achieving significant on-court familiarity. For instance, Gordon only played 19 games with Ryan Anderson (the Pelicans went 10-9), due to Anderson’s Jan. 3 season-ending injury.

“I’m definitely looking forward to the team being healthy,” Gordon said. “We’re a pretty dangerous team when we’re all healthy. We’ve got so many guys that can score, and so many dynamic playmakers. When you have all of those working and clicking at the same time, and the chemistry’s there, we can be as good as anybody. I think it’s just on us. If we want to take that next step forward to being a playoff team, I think we will be. We’ve just got to have that attitude and play hard every single night, and I think we’ll be there.”

Even though it’s still August, about 10 Pelicans players have already been in New Orleans recently to work out together and begin preparations for the season at the team’s 1-year-old Metairie practice facility. Training camp begins in about five weeks, on Sept. 30.

“We have a lot of guys that are in the gym right now,” Gordon said. “That’s the best thing about here: Everybody gets in early. Everybody’s been close, a close-knit team. It’s never a surprise that people would be here (this early). I’m just going to be working out with the team the rest of the way. I’m just looking forward to being close with the guys and starting off nice and fresh for the season.”