One step forward. Two steps back.
Eric Gordon’s pro career has been one major setback after another. Every time the 23 year old holds a full house, the basketball gods drop straight flushes and confiscate his chips.
At 6’3, Gordon is an uber-athletic scorer with enough elevation to flush on seven-foot centers off the dribble, and a shooting stroke that leaves nets soaking wet.
But since the dawn of his pro career, a black cloud of maladies have hovered over Gordon.
After missing 57 games last season following arthroscopic surgery on the same right knee he uses to lift-off for his gravity-defying dunks, Gordon was expected to form a young ambitious duo alongside No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis.
Unfortunately, the only uniform Gordon has donned thus far has been street clothes as he spends the next four to six weeks attempting to rehab his surgically repaired knee.
Davis is considered a transcendent talent but his success as a Hornet directly correlates to the health of Gordon.
In a league where regular season games are won with a deep benches, playoff immortality is earned by assembling two-pair of aces, the rare three-of-a-kind conglomeration or a Laker-like All-Star (s)quad. The tandem of Gordon and Davis, alongside brand-name point guard Austin Rivers, has the potential to grow into one of those squads.
But Gordon has to stay healthy to make that happen.
Lost in the shadows of fellow Class of 2008 guards Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, Gordon’s career has taken a divergent path from his backcourt counterparts. Rose’s Bulls have earned the Eastern Conference’s best record two seasons in a row as Westbrook has taken his unconventional Jekyll and Hyde style of play deep into June.
Rose owns a league MVP and Westbrook is member of a perennial title contender but Chicago’s inability to acquire a complementary superstar has put a cap on the Bulls’ ceiling. Conversely, for the second time in Gordon’s career he has been paired with a franchise cornerstone.
Gordon’s promising rookie season with the Los Angeles Clippers resulted in a 19-63 record but the draft gods blessed Clippertown with No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin. Ironically, the debut of Gordon and Griffin was grounded by Griffin’s broken left kneecap.
With their two stars playing on rookie contracts and then-general manager Neil Oshley presiding over enough cap space to attract a maximum contract free agent, the Clippers resembled a competent franchise. However, the early signs of Gordon’s fragility were apparent is he missed 46 games over his final two seasons in L.A.
After the labor dispute ended in December, the Hornets reluctantly dumped Gordon into New Orleans’ lap at the request of acting owner David Stern.
Gordon is expected to return in a few weeks from his current injury but if history is any indication, it may not be so simple.
Last year, in his Dec. 26th debut as a Hornet, Gordon contacted the injury virus after bumping knees with Phoenix’s Grant Hill. He remained on the floor to drain the game-winning basket but what was originally diagnosed as a knee bruise could lead to microfracture surgery and many more missed games
If Gordon is immobilized or unable to perform at a high level, the Hornets will be similarly crippled for the near future. Although the Hornets took one step forward by drafting Rivers, Davis and signing Orlando’s Ryan Anderson, major knee surgery for their key cog would be a devastating step backwards.