When the New Orleans Hornets traded franchise point guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers, many assumed that the team would face years of distress. After just one season in the gutter, however, the Hornets appear to be on the upswing.
New Orleans landed the first overall draft choice in this past June's NBA Draft, selecting Anthony Davis out of Kentucky. Davis, the unanimous choice for 2012 College Basketball Player of the Year, spent his Summer playing for Team USA at the London Olympics.
He is widely considered to be the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, and is expected to one day compete for the Defensive Player of the Year honors.
As Davis arrives in New Orleans, it is clear that the team is building for a maintenance of success. The core has been constructed with Davis being joined by fellow first-round draft choice Austin Rivers, reigning Most Improved Player of the Year award winner Ryan Anderson and star in the making, Eric Gordon.
Or has it?
After missing 57 games due to injury in 2011-12, it appears as if Gordon has once again fallen victim to an ailment. Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune reports that the former Indiana Hoosier is once again nursing a sore right knee, the same knee that was repaired via arthroscopic surgery on February 14th.
Head coach Monty Williams appears far from inclined to take the risk of rushing Gordon back from this latest development.
"We're going to limit him still," [head coach Monty] Williams said Monday. "I think we'll know more about Eric [Gordon] next week when we start to ramp him up a little bit on the floor. He's been involved in our walk-throughs. He's participated in a lot of our exercises. But I think we're erring on the side of caution right now."
This places an early blemish on what some have projected to be a promising season. The talent is certainly in place with Davis, Gordon, Rivers and Anderson. Although young, the Hornets once appeared to be primed for a legitimate run at a postseason berth.
Unfortunately, their plans to make such a significant impact on the Western Conference playoff picture will be ruined if Eric Gordon fails to remain healthy.
The question at this point is straightforward: what will come of the Hornets' dynamic duo if E.G. is unable to play? This tandem, of course, is the low-high pairing of Gordon and center Anthony Davis.
Although Davis will perform up to his elite standards with or without Gordon in the lineup, there is no denying how much better the Hornets are as a team when E.G. is active. Gordon is an elite level scorer who will provide points in a manner that no other perimeter player on the roster is guaranteed to duplicate.
Although Xavier Henry, Al-Farouq Aminu and Austin Rivers have upside, none can be labeled as dependable scoring options at this stage of their respective careers. Not even Ryan Anderson is certain to perform at the level he was at a year ago.
Don't forget, his greatest days came when Dwight Howard commanded double-teams in the paint. Unless scouts and analysts missed something, that is not a luxury that Anthony Davis is able to provide at this time.
For that reason, a magical season by the rookie big man could be lost in the fact that his teammates were unavailable due to injury. This is a team that finished tied for the third-worst record in the NBA just one year ago.
Although the talent has improved since then, the Hornets have become significantly younger. A duplication of said failures could certainly transpire if there is even just one missing piece.
As inspiring as it would be to see the Hornets emerge from the end of the Chris Paul era, Eric Gordon's latest injury could end all hope of that happening in the near future. This team will only go as far as their full core will carry them, no matter how dominant a defensive force Davis may be.
It's healthy or burst for Eric Gordon and the New Orleans Hornets.