He may have said it to quell the fanbase. He may have said it to convince himself. But New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams recently told the press, “People forget that Eric is a good guy.”
The Pelicans fanbase has a few reasons to forget that Eric Gordon is a good guy. As a restricted free agent just a year ago, Gordon publicly pleaded Hornets management not to match the Phoenix Suns’ offer sheet. To his dismay, they gave him a max offer. I was among the many New Orleanians who took his public declaration to heart. We were mending our hearts after our painful, yet inevitable, breakup with Chris Paul, and Gordon comes along and tells us months later he doesn’t want to stay with us.
Then we got jealous. PHOENIX?! REALLY?! The desert? What does Phoenix have that we don’t have? Goran Dragic? Michael Beasley? A 1.5% lower income tax rate?
Gordon played a mediocre half season for the Hornets in 2012-13 as he nursed his knee. Rumors swirled all season and into the offseason that the Hornets/Pelicans would ship Gordon away, but no one wanted the damaged goods.
Now after the Hornets’ offseason facelift, the new-look Pelicans are looking a lot better than they did a year ago to Eric Gordon. They’ve added big pieces in Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday, and filled smaller holes with big defensive studs in Jeff Withey and Greg Stiemsma and a floor-spacer in Anthony Morrow.
In an effort to show his commitment to the team, Gordon showed up at the Las Vegas Summer League to cheer on the young’ins. This is what prompted Monty’s aforementioned comment.
In order to move on from our turbulent past with Gordon, us Pelicans fans will have to convince ourselves we liked him all along. As a Yankees fan who has learned year after year to defend the former archenemies we bought out each offseason, from Randy Johnson to Johnny Damon and Kevin Youkilis, I thought I could offer a few strategies about how to pull for a guy you thought you hated.
THE GENESIS STORY
This is how the Miami Heat PR guys spun the coming together of the Big Three. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh weren’t co-conspirators who met in dark basements when their teams played each other in 2009-10, they’ve been best buddies since the AAU days! It plays into the “boyhood dream” narrative we tell ourselves.
This storyline works quite well for the new-look Pelicans too. Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans have indeed known each other since the AAU days. Gordon was just a year ahead of Holiday and Evans and each had just a year-long stint in college before entering the NBA Draft.
Stretching even further back along the boyhood dream narrative, the reluctant Eric Gordon fan can dwell on how Eric has been called EJ (short for Eric Junior) all his life, as his father handed him his first basketball and went on to coach him at the AAU level.
ACTS OF SELFLESSNESS
Showing up at the Vegas Summer League was a pretty selfless move. Or it may just be that EJ loves the desert.
MUTUAL MUSICAL INTERESTS
Seeing Al-Farouq Aminu at an A$AP Rocky show made me overlook the fact that he rendered the Hornets offense impotent. Knowing that I would have seen EJ at Charlie Wilson’s Essence Fest performance at the Superdome takes it to another level. Too bad I went and saw “This is the End” instead.
This made me chuckle:
Z -BO and Bonner jump ball might have been the worst display of athleticism since Jackie Moon!
— Eric Gordon (@TheofficialEG10) May 22, 2013
I’m already starting to come around on EJ. When I see him on the court, donning the navy and maroon and sharing the rock with Tyreke and Jrue, then I might just be fully convinced.