History: Eric Gordon joined the Rockets in the 2016-17 season as a free agent signing from the New Orleans Pelicans (along with departed Morey White Whale Supreme Ryan Anderson). As the Rockets got ever smaller, ever switchier, Gordon remains, while Anderson is long gone.
In fact, Eric Gordon extended his stay in Houston last off-season, signing a four year deal, with a team option for a fifth. The deal is guaranteed through the 22-23 season, though it is strange right now to be looking that far ahead.
Will that year be a normal one, with fans at games, people traveling, eating in restaurants, not avoiding one another to an ocasionally absurd degree? (I’m looking at you, lady who always crosses the street, and treats me like a medieval leper, when I’m walking the dog with a mask on.) We can hope that the trappings, the pleasures, rather than the bare bones, of civilization will have returned by Eric Gordon’s putative last season in Houston.
Gordon, with Clint Capela out of town, is the third highest paid Rocket, and arguably, the third most important.
Outlook: Eric Gordon needs to be the player that punishes defensive (over)reactions to James Harden and Russell Westbrook. As third wheels go, he’s a crucial one, maybe the vital one to Rockets aspirations. In the suspended season the Rockets did not see this key man, instead getting a worse than usual experience of Early Season Gordon. (Early Season Gordon is the evil twin of Late Season Can’t Miss Pure Fire Gordon, a player strongly associated with Rockets second half of the season explosions.)
Early Season Gordon is an Eric Gordon whose shot looks right, whose moves look good, and who experiences more near misses on perfect-looking shots than (probably) any player in the NBA. Gordon’s shot is truly pretty, from set up to launch, to its high arcing path, it almost always looks like it’s a make.
Only this season, so far, it didn’t even look like going into the basket. Gordon is a 37% three point shooter overall, and a 36% three point shooter for his career in Houston. This season, unfortunately, Gordon was arguably one of the worst shooters in the league, and worst overall players. His clanking did a lot some damage, even to his career Rockets average, with Eric logging a woeful 32% on 92 attempts. He’s a player whose value lies largely in offense, and that offense wasn’t good.
There is hope however. One, when Eric Gordon was lead dog, with Harden and Westbrook sitting out, he hung fifty points (that’s right, 5-0) on the defense-minded Utah Jazz (who did not seem pleased by this, I’ll note, after re-watching that game). Gordon also missed time with knee surgery earlier in the season, and seemed to be rounding into form when the league suspended play. With effectively an entire off-season since suspension of play, number 10 should be fit, and ready.
Gordon, rather than learning a new language, or brushing up on a musical instrument, or fishing, used his down time to lose between 12-20 pounds, and work on his speed and conditioning with apparently endless sprints.
As the Rockets age, this sort of weight loss, stamina, and explosive, functional, strength training is ever more important. Those “NBA arms” look nice, but there’s very little being done in the paint anymore (especially by the Rockets). Speed, stamina, resilience and functional strength will be ever more important to a Rockets team by and large in the 30+ age range. They seem to get it, with Harden and Gordon slimming down.
Eric Gordon is probably THE hidden key to Rockets success. If he can punish defenses which overplay Harden or Westbrook, if a lineup with the three of them in it can hold up defensively, if his shot returns, the Rockets are terrifying. No one in the NBA has as much scoring punch when James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon are all clicking. Let’s hope we see it.
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Rick Carlisle would have made Gordon MVPoD.