By Rob Mahoney
Eric Gordon never wanted to be back in New Orleans, but the Hornets opted to match the free agent offer sheet Gordon signed with the Suns last summer and retained his rights on a four-year deal. Thus began a nightmare that few could have anticipated; even with Gordon's preference to fly to Phoenix known, few restricted free agents boo-hoo their way through the beginning years of a lucrative contract. The Hornets liked Gordon enough to make him the key asset in their return package for Chris Paul, and liked him enough still to agree to pay him $58.4 million over the life of his contract. But something clearly didn't click for Gordon, who was quick to cause a stir with his bizarre, relatively unexplained absence to start the season, fitted with veiled comments that did little to hide his displeasure.
All of this was odd considering that Gordon was playing for an emerging head coach who seems to be genuinely well-liked by his players, much less sharing the court with a massively talented rookie in Anthony Davis, a growing point guard in Greivis Vasquez, and a fellow floor-spacing sharpshooter in Ryan Anderson. New Orleans may not be able to offer a playoff shot this season, but it did provide a chance to get in on the ground floor of something new and exciting -- as opposed to the relative malaise of toiling away on Phoenix's weirdly inert roster.
And thus Gordon's pouting continued, through uninspired performances and disinterested sound bites alike, culminating over the weekend with a fiery encounter with New Orleans head coach Monty Williams. The conflict between the two men is no longer hidden behind choice words or poor body language, but on display for the basketball world to see. Andrew Aragon of NBA.com details the events:
Hornets coach Monty Williams and point guard Eric Gordon got into a screaming match during a timeout with 8:37 left in the third quarter. [Paul] Millsap had just scored on a putback to put Utah ahead 55-47 and New Orleans called a timeout. Williams was visibly agitated, yelling in Gordon's direction. He had to be held back by assistant coach Randy Ayers after Gordon hollered back at him, and when the team went to the sidelines, Williams continued screaming at Gordon. Gordon, the team's leading scorer, did not return to the game after the confrontation.
Not a good look from either party, but hardly a surprise given the way that Williams has addressed questions about Gordon throughout the year and the utter indifference with which Gordon has played of late. It was by no conjured rumor that Gordon's name was bandied about in the lead-up to the trade deadline, after all; it would undoubtedly behoove both parties to move on and away from one another at this point. But finding fair value for a talented player with such extensive injury history may not be easy, particularly considering the price tag and baggage with which Gordon now comes saddled.BDL