Eric Gordon Is Finally Living Out His Basketball Destiny

Eric Gordon was always supposed to be this good

Adam Spolane
May 07, 2019 - 3:15 pm

Photo by Troy Taormina/USA Today

By Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane)

HOUSTON (SportsRadio 610)- The first time James Harden ever saw Eric Gordon he had to do a double take.

“I said ‘Is he in the same grade as me?’” Harden recalled Sunday.

Harden and Gordon were part of college basketball’s 2007 recruiting class that included Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Michael Beasley, DeAndre Jordan, O.J. Mayo, and Chandler Parsons, and may go down as the greatest of all time. Harden has had the best NBA career out of that group, but at the time, Gordon was considered by most to be its best player.

“He was a killer,” Harden said. “High school he was different.”

Gordon, a native of Indianapolis stayed close to home and played his college ball at Indiana, where his name was chanted at games a year before his arrival. Gordon’s only season in Bloomington was slowed by a wrist injury and overshadowed by Kelvin Sampson’s dismissal due to NCAA rules violations, but he still landed a spot on the First Team All Big Ten Team while taking home Freshman of the Year honors after averaging 21 points per game. The Los Angeles Clippers made him the seventh pick of the 2007 draft, though after a promising rookie season, injuries started to derail his career.

While his scoring average increased all three of his seasons in Los Angeles, his games played went down. Then, shortly after the NBA lockout ended in 2011 he was shipped to the then Hornets as part of the Chris Paul trade. He hit a game-winner against the Suns in his first game in New Orleans, but that might’ve been his biggest highlight in Louisiana. First it was his right knee, then his left knee. After that, Gordon tore his left labrum, and to cap it off he fractured a bone in his right finger. In total, he played in just 57 percent of the Hornets/Pelicans games in five seasons.

“I just had a huge bump in my career, especially in New Orleans where injuries kind of limited me and slowed me down,” Gordon said Monday after scoring 20 points in the Rockets game four win over the Warriors.

The Rockets always liked Gordon and tried to sign him to a max offer sheet after he played just nine games in the season right after the Paul trade. He chose Phoenix instead only to see New Orleans match the offer. Daryl Morey locked up his guy four years later, inking Gordon to a four year, $53 million deal.

“He has the entire package,” Harden said Sunday. “He can shoot the ball from deep. He got a really good handle, he can finish over anyone, and like I said defensively he’s strong, he can move his feet. He’s a valuable piece, I think he gets overlooked a lot.”

Morey’s gamble on a player that had trouble staying on the floor throughout his career paid off. He was voted the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2017 and he’s averaged 16.8 points per game over the last three seasons while playing in 86 percent of the Rockets regular season games without missing any of their 37 playoff games.

“I always wanted to play at a high level,” Gordon said. “The things I do here. I strive for that every game, and I’m never trying to take a backseat to anything, so I’m looking forward to winning here, playing and being the best I can, and I just want to win the championship here.”

At age 30, Gordon is playing the best basketball of his life. He made almost half of his three-point attempts while locking up Donovan Mitchell in the Rockets first round series win against the Jazz, and he’s averaging 23 points per game through four games against Golden State, which includes the first 30-point game of his playoff career.

“I think sometimes we got more confidence in Gordy than he got in himself,” Rockets guard Chris Paul said after that 30-point game Saturday. “He has unlimited range. When you kick it to him and he’s five steps behind the three-point line that’s like a regular shot for him, everybody else be like, ‘wow!’, but we’re used to it, and he can drive, he can defend. We just really appreciate him around here.”

Gordon’s quiet demeanor stands out on a Rockets team loaded with brash veterans, but he’s always friendly and always smiling, and now, he’s doing so for good reason. The career Harden and everyone thought he’d have as a phenom at North Central High School has come to fruition; it just took awhile for it to materialize.

“When I was with the Clippers, I had a great career there. In New Orleans, it was rocky cause I was injured, and a lot of things didn’t go right there. Here, it’s just been great and smooth sailing for me.”