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The decision to match the Phoenix Suns' max offer to Eric Gordon was a necessary evil that will go down as the biggest mistake in Dell Demps' tenure as GM of the Pelicans. As the centerpiece of the Chris Paul trade, Demps couldn't let Gordon walk for nothing after just one season.
So, he got conned into paying an oft-injured shooting guard a little over $14 million annually. To say that it hasn't worked out so far would be a gross understatement. After initially sulking over staying in NOLA, Gordon's time with the Pelicans has been hampered by injuries.
He played in all of nine games during his first season with New Orleans in 2011-12. He followed that up by playing 42 games in 2012-13. This season, he managed to play 64 games, which was his highest total since his rookie season with the L.A. Clippers in 2008-09.
Now, the team braces for its next Gordon-related hurdle: his inevitable unhappiness over being moved to a bench role.
Gordon was outplayed so badly by new addition Tyreke Evans this season that head coach Monty Williams has mulled making the former Hoosier a $15 million sixth man.
"I don't want to speculate but it is part of the equation. Eric is a guy that can score the ball and anything I say right now is going to be blown out of proportion," Williams said, according to The Times-Picayune's John Reid. "But I have thought about Tyreke in a starting role. For whatever reason, it clicks for him. When you look at Tyreke and his effectiveness as a starter, you can't just sneeze at that. It's a valid conversation.''
How does coming off the bench sit with you, Eric?
"I won't get into that because I thought they brought me here to lead and set the tone for the team," Gordon said.
Evans averaged 19.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 22 starts this season. Gordon, meanwhile, averaged 15.4 points in nearly three times as many starts. Gordon's the better shooter (39 percent from three compared to Evans' 22 percent), but Evans is better in nearly every other category.
The Pelicans' worst-kept secret is they've been shopping Gordon for a while now. It started at last year's trade deadline, according to a tweet from ESPN's Chris Broussard, and likely hasn't stopped since.
The problem with finding a trade partner is obvious. Nobody wants to pay nearly $31 million over the next two seasons for an oft-injured guard who hasn't lived up to his potential in six pro seasons. At least, not without sending back someone equally as bad in return.
That means New Orleans is looking at someone like Chicago's Carlos Boozer or Milwaukee's Larry Sanders in exchange for Gordon (assuming the Bulls or Bucks are even interested). Gordon could always make life easier on everyone by agreeing to opt out next season, thus making his albatross contract a little easier to move.
Regardless, getting rid of Gordon has to be the top priority, even if it means taking 20 cents on the dollar for him. If he was "brought here to lead," as he says, it hasn't happened in three seasons. Plus, things are only going to get worse if or when Evans usurps him in the starting lineup.
By moving Gordon now, there's a little more wiggle room to improve this summer as well as space to ensure Anthony Davis won't be leaving New Orleans anytime soon by giving him a hefty contract extension.
Obviously, it won't be easy, but we've seen teams take on bad contracts before. The Brooklyn Nets did it with Joe Johnson. The Orlando Magic did it with Gilbert Arenas. Someone, if desperate enough, will do it for Eric Gordon.