Eric Gordon's Nagging Injury Could Be a Hidden Blessing for New Orleans Hornets

Dave Leonardis@@FrontPageDaveContributor IIIOctober 8, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 26:  Eric Gordon #10 of the New Orleans Hornets during the season openning NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on December 26, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Hornets defeated the Suns 85-84. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There's a silver lining behind news (via CBSSports) that a troublesome knee will limit Hornets guard Eric Gordon in training camp. While the Hornets will need their franchise shooting guard to be healthy once the games count, taking it slow with Gordon for now will do more help than harm going forward.

Limited minutes for Gordon in camp means more minutes for rookie Austin Rivers. Rivers was drafted No. 10 overall with the idea that he'll be the team's point guard of the future, but that's far from a certainty at this point. With Gordon hobbled, Rivers can get more reps at his more natural position. It also allows point guard Brian Roberts, the star of New Orleans' preseason win over Orlando, to see more action as well.

Rivers flashed some of his potential in his preseason debut, scoring 10 points and not turning the ball over once. But he didn't shoot the ball particularly well, going 2-for-6 from the field and missing all three attempts from behind the arc. Rivers is a talented scorer, but the Hornets need their young guard to show more consistency in his offensive game.

Roberts, meanwhile, led all players with 17 points in the team's 85-80 win in Mexico City. The undrafted guard out of Dayton also added four rebounds and four assists. The encouraging performance gives the Hornets another reason to keep Rivers at shooting guard and let Roberts take over the backup point guard spot.

The increased time at shooting guard for Rivers means less time breathing down the neck of point guard Greivis Vasquez. Vasquez will open the season as the starter at point guard, but his leash isn't very long with the team anxious to see what Rivers can do. And as good as Roberts has played, his chances of usurping Vasquez aren't as great as Rivers' are.

Vasquez had four points, five rebounds and six assists against the Magic. He flashed a variety of elements he can bring to the table as a 6'6" point guard, but also turned the ball over five times. Like Rivers, he'll benefit from the increased practice time to sharpen his skills before the regular season tips off on October 31st.

Another positive to resting Gordon's bum knee is that it gives him more time to recover and allows him the possibility of being fresher down the stretch when the team needs him most. Gordon is an important element to the Hornets, but there is no sense rushing back a player with his litany of injury woes if he isn't 100 percent.

Gordon played in only nine games in his debut season for the Hornets last year and has yet to last a full 82 games since he entered the league. It's best to tread very carefully when it comes to knee injuries; the best evidence comes from watching guys like Gilbert Arenas or Brandon Roy. The long-term risk of putting too much strain on a shaky knee outweighs the reward of temporarily having your best player on the court.

This young Hornets team has plenty of time to build chemistry. They have a shot at the playoffs, but a number of factors have to break their way to make that happen this season. They'll only go as far as Gordon will let them and he can't carry them from the end of the bench. With someone as fragile as Gordon, it is imperative that the team remains patient during his recovery.

However, his limitations in camp isn't the end of the world for the Hornets. If the extra time helps further the development of guys like Rivers and Vasquez, Gordon's absence will be worth it in the long run.

Hornets fans want their franchise shooting guard in uniform when the games matter late in the season. It may not be the start to camp many had hoped, but Hornets fans would gladly trade a few missed preseason games for a healthy Eric Gordon during the regular season.