Eric Gordon's health provided the New Orleans Hornets with another curveball on Wednesday. Before the Hornets lost 101-91 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Hornets head coach Monty Williams announced that Gordon will miss another three weeks with a knee bruise, according to CBSSports.com. That led to more painful news as the Hornets did not give Gordon a contract extension.
Gordon's health had already caused the Hornets significant hardship. On December 26, Gordon bruised his right knee when he bumped it in a game against the Phoenix Suns. He only has played one game since then. Meanwhile, the Hornets have lost 15 of their last 16 games, and are currently on a nine-game slide.
New Orleans has slipped deep into a hole in the Southwest Division cellar, 8.5 games behind the division-leading San Antonio Spurs and seven games behind the fourth place Houston Rockets. Their early slide has already put them virtually out of contention in an intensely competitive division, in which four teams are within 1.5 games of each other.
Furthermore, the Hornets are struggling to score without Gordon.New Orleans is averaging 87.6 points per game (28th in the NBA), hit 43.4 percent from the field (17th in the NBA) and hit an anemic 26.9 percent from three-point range. Jarrett Jack is leading three players averaging double figures for New Orleans with 16.8 point per game, 3.7 points more than his previous high.
Is It More Than a Bruise?
One might wonder if Gordon is dealing with more than a bruise. Gordon has missed three weeks, which was the most the Hornets initially expected him to be out. Coach Williams wasn't clear whether it could be more serious.
Will the Hornets be able to re-sign Eric Gordon as a restricted free agent?
"I'm sure it's a bone bruise," he said, "but I don't know the other stuff that's going on. It's more than precaution. It just hasn't healed the way they wanted. They still see something on the knee they don't like, so he's got to take more time."
That Gordon is dealing with a bone bruise opens another realm of possibility. He could be dealing with a deep bruise, which could take longer to heal. One might wonder if the former Indiana Hoosier is dealing with limited mobility.
That the Hornets are taking their time with Gordon is surely a good thing. Missing a few weeks now is better than the possibility of him missing months more down the road, which would hurt his chance of resigning with the Hornets.
Missing Extension Was Inevitable with Injury
Eric Gordon and the Hornets were unable to reach an extension before the deadline on Wednesday night, according to the Times-Picayune. The Hornets had offered Gordon a four-year extension. Without the extension, Gordon will become a restricted free agent on July 1, and the Hornets will be able to match any offer.
That Gordon would be unable to reach an extension seemed like a foregone conclusion. The Hornets likely weren't enthusiastic about bringing forward a lucrative deal, partly due to their ownership by the NBA, but moreover, they couldn't be certain of Gordon's value if he had missed all but two games due to injury.
Gordon couldn't expect an extension since he had been out for most of the season before the deadline. Even if he had hit a game-winning shot against the Phoenix Suns and had averaged 22 points per game the year before, Gordon couldn't say he had earned an extension.
The business of the game dictates that the player is worth what he did that year for his team.
Gordon had little to show forth in a Hornets uniform, despite his previous body of work.
Conclusion: Hornets' Future Unclear With Gordon Out
With the Hornets missing Gordon for at least three more weeks, they look to slide even farther down in their hole. Without a true scorer in Gordon, New Orleans looks to win fewer than 15 games this season. On the bright side, young players will surely learn a great deal and the Hornets will gain a high draft pick.
What the Hornets are uncertain of for the future is whether they'll have a strong point guard anchoring the team after this season. While the Hornets can match any offer for Gordon this coming offseason, the question remains whether they will be able to match offers by other teams.
With the NBA owning the Hornets, failing to match offers for him is a strong possibility. The NBA provides the Hornets with a small purse with which to spend. If a team believing highly in Gordon's ability makes an impressive offer, the Hornets likely wouldn't be able to match it since the NBA wouldn't give them the money.
That would leave the Hornets swimming in an unfortunate mess until the NBA finds an owner for them.