In Friday night’s fiasco versus the Utah Jazz, Eric Gordon was pulled early in the 3rd quarter and did not return to the court for the remainder of the game. He wasn’t hurt and he wasn’t tired: he was yanked because he was not exerting a proper amount of effort on defense. As he walked by Monty Williams, Gordon appeared to mutter something under his breath, much to Williams’ chagrin. Williams became visibly upset and had to be restrained by Randy Ayers, the Hornets assistant coach.
Monty Williams is not one to mince words. He isn’t aggressive towards players, but he will tell it like it is. He has publicly criticized numerous Hornets players, but has always done without throwing them under the bus, and he is an equal-opportunity critic. He is a level-headed, straightforward coach, and I don’t remember him going after a player. Ever. This is what makes Friday’s incident so interesting- it hasn’t happened before (that I know of).
Gordon’s season has been disappointing by all measures. He was held out of games until January, hasn’t been as effective as he used to be, and just doesn’t appear very interested in being part of this franchise’s future. He is clearly still not 100%, and he has said as much, but his effort is inconsistent.
I believe Eric Gordon is as talented as he’s hyped to be. He’s an overrated shooter, but he’s been an efficient volume scorer in this league for years, and that kind of player is hard to obtain. He is also an adept on-ball defender. But his career appears to be hanging by a thread: I think he is one more knee injury away from effectively ruining his career. However, I doubt any of the aforementioned skill, performance, or risk is relevant, because it is his attitude that leads me to believe he’s going to be gone sometime soon.
The Hornets’ organization tends to play things close to its chest, but Monty Williams and GM Dell Demps have hardly been secretive about the type of players they want to build around. They want hard workers and true professionals. Williams doesn’t like babying players, and the roster is unsurprisingly full of guys cut from the same cloth. Davis, Anderson, Smith, Lopez, Vasquez, and virtually all of the other players are not prima donnas.
Gordon doesn’t fit. I don’t think he’s a horrible person, nor do I believe he’s as lazy as many fans label him. His tenure as a Hornet, however, leaves little doubt in my mind that he doesn’t fit the blueprint, and the New Orleans franchise is on the verge of a big change. The Pelicans rebrand has been accompanied by news of reduced ticket prices, arena upgrades, and the creation of a mammoth practice facility. Benson wants fans to start buying in, and they already didn’t like Gordon. Keeping Gordon makes the team less likable, and in a big marketing push, having someone like that can’t be good.
The Hornets shopped Gordon at the trade deadline this season and announced that they will revisit trade talks during the summer, which showed that the franchise was willing to let Gordon go. This incident, in addition to his performance this season, has upgraded a Gordon trade to a clear priority. I don’t expect Gordon to be around for much longer.
*Photo Credit: Christian Peterson. Getty Images