The irony of the television commercial is cutting. There’s New Orleans Hornets guard Eric Gordon, in a promo for the team’s new cable television home, asking the question:
“New Orleans: Are you ready?”
Yes. New Orleans is ready, and has been for quite some time, nearly two months, in fact, for the injured Gordon to return to the city after being exiled since the first week of November to rehabilitate a sore right knee that has limited Gordon’s time in a Hornets uniform to nine out of possible 91 games since he was acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers 53 weeks ago as part of the deal that sent Chris Paul to the Clippers.
As Gordon sits – he has practiced full-contact with his teammates perhaps once this season, just before the Oct. 31 opener against the San Antonio Spurs, Friday night’s opponent in San Antonio – the Hornets plod along their youthful way minus the potential 20 points Gordon could provide on a nightly basis.
Never was that better illustrated than in Wednesday night’s 93-77 loss to the Clippers, New Orleans’ ninth straight as Gordon watched from the bench, where the Hornets struggled to find any semblance of offensive firepower.
Before the game, Gordon said he expects to return to New Orleans by week’s end, saying the issue with his knee, which involved the patellar tendon and a bone bruise, has calmed to the point where Gordon predicts he’ll play by the end of the month.
If Gordon does return in the immediate future, he already will have missed more than 25 percent of the 2012-13 season, with the Hornets well on their way to another lottery drawing next May as they're 5-20, in last place in the Southwest Division and owners of the worst record in the Western Conference.
The ambiguity surrounding Gordon’s aching right knee, and the team’s reluctance to offer any specificity about the nature of the injury to their $58 million, max-money player, makes Gordon’s continued absence from the team all the more confounding.
The player’s comments he made last summer after agreeing to an offer sheet from the Phoenix Suns – Gordon said his “heart is in Phoenix” and he hoped the Hornets would not match the deal – have created the perception that Gordon does not want to play in New Orleans.
It has raised the ire of Hornets fans who remember how Baron Davis, then a max-money player, slogged his way through his final months here, eventually forcing a trade to the Golden State Warriors, as well as the saga of Jamal Mashburn who rode a bone bruise right into a paper trade to the Philadelphia 76ers and eventual retirement while reaping the totality of his multi-million dollar contract.
Those who know Gordon, however, don’t believe the 23-year-old can be placed in the Davis/Mashburn category.
“He’s in a good situation here,” said one source with knowledge of the last year’s saga who requested anonymity. “People in New Orleans in general are very sensitive to people not wanting to be here. But it’s a good situation. A good young team, good coach, good culture. He does want to be here, I just think he wants to be playing at a high level and he can’t.”
“It’s a mystery,” the source said.