The uncomfortable tone of Eric Gordon's situation with the Hornets

By Zach Harper | NBA writer
Everybody would like to see less of Gordon's suit collection. (Getty Images)

The Eric Gordon situation is frustrating for everybody involved, but the turn it's starting to take is making me uncomfortable.

When the trade of Chris Paul away from the Hornets was first announced and we found out that Eric Gordon was in the deal, many Clippers fans were wondering if it was smart to make that deal with the potential of acquiring such an injury-prone guard. Considering Gordon missed seven more games between 2009 and 2011 than Paul did, I can only assume Clippers fans were worried about the Hornets at the time.

Eric Gordon has been an up-and-coming shooting guard in this league for a few years now. People marvel at his talent and athleticism. They get dazzled by the tenacity and physical nature he displays when attacking his opponents. It feels like he's knocking on the door of stardom.

Because of his considerable talents, you hate to see him sidelined with various injuries, and that's all we've seen with him recently. Back in January, he was sidelined with a knee contusion for weeks. After playing for the Hornets on Jan. 4, he didn't return to the lineup until April 4. In between those times, he had orthoscopic surgery to clean out his injured knee.

Gordon played in seven of the final 13 games of last season and played well. He showed the fans exactly what everybody had been missing. Once the Hornets won the lottery and we found out Anthony Davis would be heading to New Orleans, it seemed like the organization was finally taking a turn in the right direction. They had a new owner, they had the best player in college joining them, and they had the restricted free agency rights to Gordon.

And that's where this seemed to take its first dark turn.

Gordon tried to leave for the Phoenix Suns. He signed a max-offer sheet with the Suns and practically begged the Hornets to not match the offer. Maybe he wanted to get to the Phoenix Suns' warlock training staff, which can turn torn cartilage into wine, or maybe he just wanted a change of scenery after being surprised with a trade away from the Clippers, which he found out about while he was on a bus with Clippers season-ticket holders.

Whatever the reason was, he wanted out of New Orleans, and the Hornets wouldn't grant him his wish. He was forced to return to the team. Since then, we've heard about what an honor it is to be a part of the organization and how much they're glowing about him. That was until he missed the entire preseason and the Hornets' first game with his nagging knee injury.

Jeff Duncan's piece today on nola.com was eye opening. This is not to disparage anything Duncan himself said in the piece or anything like that, but it read like people in the organization are trying to put it out there that they think Gordon is a wuss. It feels like parts of the organization have turned on Gordon during his time of constant injury and Dell Demps is trying to be the peacemaker.

Nearly two weeks ago, Monty Williams said Eric Gordon was unlikely to play in the final preseason games because he had to get his conditioning up. He had been out for all of training camp with a sore knee, the same knee he had surgery on in February. And now?

"He probably does feel pain; that would be the only reason why a guy can't play," Williams said. "For me to try to read an MRI ... I'll find out more as we go forward. I try to not get into all that because that would just make me upset."

Williams said on Monday he would check with team physician Scott Montgomery to ascertain if playing Gordon would cause additional damage.

"I've checked with Doc," Williams said, "but for him to explain to me what's going on with his body and then have Eric feel a certain way doesn't matter. You know what I'm saying? If Doc says one thing and the guy is feeling another, then you have to . . . what am I supposed to say?

"I'm sure it's got to be medical. A guy just can't not play. It's got to be medical. At this point of the year, everybody is excited to play. I'm sure it's medical."

To me, that sounds like Monty Williams is getting Gordon an ice pack for his knee so that the swelling is minimized when he throws his player under the bus. What has changed since Oct. 21 when it sounded like Gordon just needed to work on conditioning?

Why does it feel like the organization is trying to roast their max player in the media while Dell Demps attempts to find a fire extinguisher?

You would have hoped Gordon would have cleared up all of this confusion when he talked to the media about his knee, but he seemed to contradict himself multiple times and leave everybody scratching their head. Even before Gordon seemingly presented a riddle about his knee injury, the overall tone of the situation gave me an uneasy feeling.

The doctors say he's structurally fine but he's feeling pain. And at this point, the Hornets seem done waiting for him to play. With information like Duncan gave us in his post, it appears the organization is trying to absolve itself of any ire from the fans -- and putting it all on Gordon.

It feels like the team is setting up a sense of entitlement for Hornets fans to grasp. Many fans won't take the bait and will probably sit back and wait to see just how long Gordon is sidelined with his mysterious knee ailment. But there will be some fans tricked into feeling like Gordon doesn't want to be here, just months after attempting to sign with a different team.

There could be an uprising against the Hornets' max player, and any time he turns an ankle, bangs knees or comes up limping, we'll hear the provoked groans that are a natural fallout from how this story is being portrayed.

Yes, Gordon has played in just 13 percent of possible games with the Hornets so far, but he still has roughly 327 games to potentially be involved with over the life of his contract (not counting any playoff runs the team makes). The team went from glowing about his involvement with drills, huddles and everything team related 10 days ago to now having people question if he is a tough enough person.

I understand the frustration, but I'm not sure the uncomfortable nature of the things being said is the best path to take during his recovery.

 
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