PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 26: Eric Gordon #10 of the New Orleans Hornets celebrates after scoring the game winning basket against the Phoenix Suns during the season openning NBA game at US Airways Center on December 26, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Hornets defeated the Suns 85-84. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Late yesterday, New Orleans shooting guard Eric Gordon tossed a few more grenades in the direction of his team, his teammates and the front office. It is now clear he wasn't just using the Suns to negotiate a new deal to stay with the Hornets next season. While Roy Hibbert is getting a similar max offer from Portland without saying one bad thing about Indiana, Gordon is saying everything and anything he can to get the heck out of
dodge the bayou. Not that all of it makes perfect sense, mind you, but he's trying to get the point across regardless.
(all thanks to hornets247.com for these quotes and thoughts from interviewing Gordon yesterday at the tryouts for Team USA. I feel for those guys, I really do.)
Let's start out by saying that Eric Gordon felt extremely uncomfortable in this interview. He had backed up 10 feet from where we started by the time the interview ended.
On what made Phoenix a better fit than New Orleans- "The interest- I feel like im getting taken advantage of over there just because I'm restricted... if they wanted to.... you know how this CBA, this deal is, it's built for you to stay with your remaining team, but everything has been taken advantage of".
The whole interview is on video at the link above, if you're curious.
Continue on with this story if you want more juicy tidbits...
On if he felt slighted when Austin Rivers was drafted-
"If you look at it, we have no center, we have hardly no bigs, you never know. I'm at a point where I went to Phoenix, I talked to their organization and next thing you know they signed the players.
"You look at our roster right now, what do we have, one big? Jason Smith? Before Anthony Davis, we had no bigs.
"My thing is, if you're trying to be a good team, and you've got a young team, you've got to fill in spaces. I am the shooting guard. We've got plenty of point guards on our team right now."
He really, really didn't like that draft pick of Rivers, who incidentally DOES play the same position as the one real starting-quality player on that team. But really, a team needs to go for talent and every team needs 2 shooting guard, especially NBA-caliber ones who can get their own shot.
We Suns fans are spoiled by the attitudes of Steve Nash and every other player on the 2011-12 Suns team. Of course, the 2011-12 Suns team was much more competitive than the 2011-12 Hornets team, with a lot more maturity and overall talent. Coach Monty Williams drew blood from a stone with that group.
Yet Joe Johnson was really miffed in the summer of 2005, when he projected enough negativity to convince the Suns to trade him to the Hawks rather than match the max offer. While JJ didn't throw the Suns team under the bus, there was no opportunity for such. The Suns had just come off a 62-20 campaign and Western Conference Finals appearance!
But JJ did throw grenades toward team management about getting previous offers that were below what he felt was his market value. A year before, when the Suns were committing gobs of money to PG Steve Nash and SF Quentin Richardson, the Suns "lowballed" JJ with a 5-year, $45 million contract extension offer. I quote-mark the "lowball" because JJ was asking for $50, so the offer was only $1 million a year lower than he wanted. And this was 2004, when JJ was coming off a relatively unspectacular campaign for a 29-win team.
Here's Gordon, regarding the $50 million offer he got last January from the struggling Hornets, per Jimmy Smith at nola.com and the Times-Picayune:
Gordon repeatedly said he felt the Hornets should have made a better offer than the reported four-year, $50 million contract the club wanted to give him in late January, while he was out with a right knee injury that two weeks later necessitated arthroscopic surgery.
On if he would he have taken the $58 million if it had been offered at the time: "Why not?"
So what's at the root of all this unrest for Gordon? Why is he so upset about all this, even though the Hornets have said all along that they want to keep him and would match any offer on the table to him, up to and including the max (4 years, $58 million)?
On why the Suns are the best fit- "The type of interest that they have as an organization. That's just point-blank."
On what made Phoenix a better fit than New Orleans- "The interest- I feel like im getting taken advantage of over there just because I'm restricted... if they wanted to.... you know how this CBA, this deal is, it's built for you to stay with your remaining team, but everything has been taken advantage of."
He feels lowballed, even to this day. He feels like the Hornets are trying to get away with paying him as little as possible to keep him under their control. And he's pissed off about it.
Frankly I get the idea that Gordon really wants to be wanted, and the Hornets missed the boat to some extent on making him feel that way. He said repeatedly "the interest isn't there." He said multiple times that Dell and Monty haven't spoken with him since the free agent period started. I get the feeling that if they had told him on day one and said that they were going to match any offer- that he was their guy- this could have been avoided. I don't mean in the media or on the phone, either. I mean one on one in Indiana, where he was when free agency started.
Apparently, GM Dell Demps was right in the building while all this was going on, yet he hadn't talked to Gordon personally yet? And, don't forget the Hornets had 6 months so far with Gordon, not just the last few days.
This is not going to end well for the Hornets if they match the Suns' contract offer. The Suns know this first-hand (at least, Robert Sarver does), and made the trade even after previously promising to match any offer. They tossed out the white flag, and in return took the Hawks' 3-string PG/SG and two protected first-round picks.
You just can't keep a guy on your squad that feels disrespected, no matter how petty or misplaced that feeling may be. He can be a cancer on a team that's building toward the future. Hornets coach Monty Williams is a good coach, and GM Dell Demps is not afraid to make tough decisions. Why have a cancer on that squad?
So the next question is: why the heck would the Suns want a team cancer like this?
The answer: all the players in the NBA just want to be wanted, and many of them don't mind trying to exercise some level of pressure on their team. JJ himself bitched and moaned his way out of Phoenix, yet hasn't said one negative thing about Atlanta since then and by all accounts has been a model citizen. JJ simply wanted to be "the man". He wanted to be wanted. Maybe that's all Eric Gordon needs.
We have four days until the offer sheet is presented by the Suns and signed by Gordon. If that happens, the Hornets only have 2 choices: (1) match it, and keep a highly-paid malcontent that might ruin your chemistry or (2) ignore it, and let Gordon go to Phoenix for nothing.
But that's four days from now. In the meantime, Hornets GM Dell Demps has to figure out where Gordon's head really is. If all Gordon really wants is some love and affection (and money to show for it), then Demps can have a nice long dinner with Gordon and talk it out man to man. Maybe even stroke Gordon's
hand ego a little bit a lot.
If they leave that dinner on good terms, Demps can match the offer sheet and all is well in NOLA.
If they leave that dinner on bad terms, then Demps needs to get on the phone with Suns President of Basketball Operation Lon Babby and work out some compensation for letting Gordon go to Phoenix.
Maybe: still-young C Robin Lopez and two protected first-round picks (Suns' 2013 and the higher of Suns' and Lakers' 2015 picks, both top-10 protected with the protection dwindling each subsequent year).
Get 'er done, Lon and Dell!
Update: apologies to Michael Schwartz at www.valleyofthesuns.com for posting this same trade suggestion yesterday and even coming to the same JJ/Gordon comparison. I swear I didn't read that article before writing mine. My proof is that Michael's article is much better, and so it stands to reason that I would not have made an inferior post intentionally. Plus, I don't make it a habit to steal others' editorial storylines without full attribution.