Eric Gordon gave a clear signal this week that he intends to pick up his player option for next season, worth more than $15.514MM, and stay with the Pelicans, referring to next season as a “contract year” in remarks that John Reid of The Times-Picayune relays. Player option aside, next season is the last on Gordon’s contract. The shooting guard echoed coach Monty Williams, who recently praised Gordon for putting off surgery on the torn labrum in his left shoulder.
”When I came back, I didn’t want to give up on this year because next year is a contract year for me,” Gordon said. ”I definitely didn’t want to give up on this team. I thought this was a special team and it’s just good to see where we’re at right now.”
It’s certainly no surprise that the Rob Pelinka client would choose to opt in, even though he’s played better since returning from the injury in January. His 13.3 points per game this season represent a fourth straight year of decline in his scoring average, and though his shot attempts have also gone down each of those years, his PER of 12.7 indicates that he’s not playing efficiently. He’s not the star that many thought he’d become when he was the jewel of the trade package New Orleans received for him in the Chris Paul deal. That reputation helped him earn the offer sheet, a four-year maximum-salary arrangement, that he signed with the Suns in the summer of 2012 and that the then-Hornets matched even after he’d played only nine games in 2011/12 because of injury.
The 26-year-old shooting guard is nonetheless draining 45.3% of his three-pointers, a career-best mark by far for the career 38.0% three-point shooter, and, as Reid points out, he’s been turning it on of late, scoring 16 points or more in five of his last six games. Williams is optimistic that Gordon is turning a corner, Reid notes.
“This is the guy that we thought we were going to have fortunately; he had so many injuries and it was hard for him to get the work in,” Williams said. “I think you are starting to see a part of it but not all of it. I think Eric, because A.D [Anthony Davis] is playing so well and Tyreke [Evans] has the ball a lot, he doesn’t get as many opportunities. I’ve got to find more ways to get him the ball. The thing I like about Eric is he tries to make the right play. Eric has so much in his game that people haven’t seen what all he can do with his ability to score and play off the dribble.”
Gordon expressed regret this week for saying when he signed the offer sheet that “Phoenix is just where my heart is now,” Reid notes. It’s the latest step Gordon has made to distance himself from that comment, an effort that began soon after New Orleans matched the offer. Regardless, it appears he’ll remain with the Pelicans for at least one more season. New Orleans would have about $55.8MM in guaranteed salary against a projected $67.4MM salary cap next season if Gordon were to indeed opt in.