By Zachary Junda
Eric Gordon’s season has gone from bad to worse.
Between his awful play on the court and fans not even trying to hide their hope that he opts out of his contract at the conclusion of next season (where he’d be turning down $15.5 million to try his hand at free agency), the last thing anyone needs is for Gordon to miss extended time due to injury. Again.
Well it happened. Again.
Gordon’s out indefinitely after tearing his labrum in his left shoulder on November 22 against Utah. A decision has not yet been made as to whether or not the injury will require a surgery, but if it is needed Gordon will more than likely miss the rest of the 2014-15 season. The lone bright side, if one exists, is that if Gordon does indeed miss the rest of the season the Pelicans could petition the NBA for an disabled player exception, which would allow the team to sign a player to a one year deal for up to $5.3 million, or trade for a player on an expiring contract up to $5.4 million.
#TellDIG: What should the Pelicans do with Eric Gordon – and his contract?
The bright sides are far and in between with Gordon. A player that’s been labeled fragile has broken down once again. In his seven seasons out of Indiana, Gordon’s never played a full 82 game season. His first season in New Orleans Gordon played in all of nine games. To his credit, until this season, Gordon has increased the number of games he’s played in: 42 in 2012-13 and 64 in 2013-14.
But what exactly are the Pelicans losing if Eric Gordon misses the rest of the season? This year’s version of Gordon has looked lost all season long, averaging only 9 points on 39 percent shooting from the floor, 34 from three and a career worst 70 percent from the free throw line. A team should be able to replace that lack of production, though it’s worth noting Monty Williams still hasn’t settled on a new starting five just yet. In the games since Gordon’s gone down, the Pelicans have used multiple different starting lineups featuring Austin Rivers, Tyreke Evans, Luke Babbitt and Darius Miller (who has since been released by the Pelicans. WELP) all playing on the wing. Rivers, who was playing well enough early on in the season to warrant taking minutes from Gordon, struggled in the two games he’s started in his place, accumulating a combined four points and five assists.
That’s what makes this Gordon situation all the more maddening. He’s constantly injured, currently under performing and ridiculously overpaid, but he’s still important to this franchise. New Orleans has a losing record since Gordon tore his labrum. The Pelicans need Gordon, but they don’t need his abysmal shooting numbers or expensive contract. The Gordon that averaged 22 points his last season with the Clippers and 20 in the nine games he played his first season in New Orleans may never come back, but the Pelicans don’t need that guy. The Pelicans need a 15 to 17 points per game on 44 percent shooting Gordon. With Anthony Davis developing into a top-5 player in the league, Jrue Holiday playing like a top-10 point guard and Omer Asik, Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson rounding out a solid nucleus for the Pelicans Eric Gordon doesn’t have to worry about being the guy; he can just be a guy.
Gordon’s poor play, frail body and bad contract complicate things with the Pelicans but the reality’s simple: New Orleans needs him. And in the waning months of his lucrative contract, he needs New Orleans, too.