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Eric Gordon’s Return Propels Hornets Past Bobcats
by Kerem Ozkan
He’s back. Eric Gordon, playing only his 10th game as a Hornet, effortlessly notched 24 points and seven assists in 25 minutes Saturday to lead the Hornets to a 98-95 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. The Hornets are now 7-23 for the season.
Simply put, Gordon exceeded every reasonable expectation in his return from the knee injury that had plagued him since the 2011 offseason. His impressive stats belie just how solid his performance was, as nearly every possession involving Gordon resulted in a good shot for the Hornets. Fortunately, there’s video.
Gordon shot an astonishing 14 free throws in the game, getting to the rim and drawing contact at will. This is no anomaly — as At The Hive’s Rohan documents, EG has always been near-elite at drawing fouls. His shooting didn’t look half-bad, either. Despite his drawn-out injury saga, it's suddenly easy to remember why multiple teams were competing to throw a max contract at this guy.
Moreover, Gordon showed the ability to take advantage of the Hornets’ plethora of shooters, finding the open man repeatedly after drawing defenders to himself. 247’s Ryan Schwan notes that the Hornets ran pick 'n rolls for EG over a dozen times with awesome results. The threat of an explosive guard suddenly adds some offensive cohesion to a team that looked miserably mismatched a week ago. Gordon’s effect tonight was not unlike what James Harden has done for the Rockets.
"I haven't had open looks like that in quite a while," Ryan Anderson told the AP. "[Gordon] is a special player. There are not a lot of guys like him in the NBA. He hasn't quite warmed up to be 100 percent comfortable yet with this group on the court, but to come out and take over like that, that is the mark of a special player."
Lest we get too excited over a three-point win against the Bobcats, let’s note that the Hornets were absolutely terrible for long stretches of the first half. Falling behind by 21 to the Bobcats is troubling, even if we did make up for it later. Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions each missed potential equalizers on the final possession. Anthony Davis and Robin Lopez were forgettable, our small forwards were once again seemingly invisible, and Austin Rivers was absolutely miserable.
Most worrisome: Charlotte’s starting wings — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Gerald Henderson — combined for 41 points on 17-of-24 shooting. Perimeter defense is unquestionably the Hornets’ most pressing need, and Al-Farouq Aminu’s absence is mystifying and frustrating.
Things will get better soon. The return of Jason Smith, the eventual stabilization of rotations, and the burden Gordon takes off the offense should all help Monty Williams right the ship. If the team has indeed given up on Aminu, however, they would be wise to eventually add a defensive-minded small forward. New Orleans is in no rush to make a move and Dell Demps certainly won’t want to sacrifice significant assets for short-term gain. With that said, the Hornets’ top priority now is to develop players and teach winning basketball. One has to imagine it’s hard to develop a roster when there’s a gaping hole in it.
Moreover, there may well deals to be had. 247’s Michael McNamara recently crafted a solid list of candidates, including draft prospects and trade targets. Luol Deng and Corey Brewer are the most realistic trade targets mentioned, though Deng’s value is severely overstated. Something like Jason Smith and Al-Farouq Aminu for Courtney Lee and Chris Wilcox makes perfect sense to your correspondent.
The team’s brief easy stretch is over, as 15 of the Hornets’ next 18 games come against quality teams contending for playoff spots. I really can’t remember ever seeing a schedule this rough. First up, the resurgent Atlanta Hawks at home on Tuesday.
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