Over the summer, I spent time working on a big feature for Dime #65. It was on Ben Gordon, and whether we had lost the real Ben Gordon for good somewhere along the line. He was always one of my favorite players… one of those cats who wasn’t quite a superstar, but yet still had you altering your schedule to catch his games. You never knew when he’d drop a 20-piece in a fourth quarter or catch someone slipping with a nasty step-back crossover. Then he signed a big deal with Detroit, left the cozy confines of Chicago, and hasn’t really been heard from since.
When I wrote the summer feature, Gordon was overtly frustrated enough to blatantly admit it to me, but at the same time, he was hopeful things would change. It sounds like they haven’t.
The hardest part of the Pistons situation for Gordon is that he is not a starter and really isn’t in a position to affect a lot of change.
“Everybody’s frustrated,” admitted Gordon. “I don’t think anybody here is walking around feeling good… just the way things have went this season. Until we figure that out that’s how people are going to look. That’s how I’m going to feel. That’s how I’m going to look until we figure out how to get over the hump.”
“At this point we just have to try and deal with the team. It’s tough but what can you do? Like I said, compete with maximum effort and see what happens from there.”
Last month on a Wednesday night in Denver, BG lit up the midwest with 45 points and nine triples (he didn’t miss a single shot from deep). But other than that, this year hasn’t differed much for him under Lawrence Frank (12.2 points per game and 27.6 minutes in 21 starts). The Magic were run out of the gym in Orlando last night even as Dwight Howard was dressed like Clark Kent on the sidelines. Frank called it “embarrassing and “humiliating.”
Besides Gordon’s own battles with playing time, Detroit is 21-36 with nine games remaining. They’re the best of the worst, the best Eastern Conference team that has no shot at the playoffs. They still don’t know what they have with Rodney Stuckey, and they still have a Mr. Potato Head team. Too many parts that don’t fit. Unless they grab a lucky ping-pong ball, they’re much more likely to end up with an unknown (say, Terrence Jones) than a sure thing (Anthony Davis).
Gordon has two years remaining on his deal (the second is a player option he’s bound to pick up), and with $25.6 million still owed to him, he’ll find it difficult to move in the near future.
This is Ben Gordon, a kid who was so unassuming he wore a t-shirt under his college jersey despite being one of the most ripped players in America; a man so laid back his coaches at UConn used to plead with him to shoot more often; a celebrity so out of the spotlight that he can admit to me with a chuckle that the birth of his son Elijah this summer has cut into his partying; a guy so regular that one of his best friends and teammates, Will Bynum, can only say “Ben is just Ben” as if that explains everything.
Ben is just Ben, and at some point that went from meaning something positive to something entirely different. In the midst of two forgotten years, he’s floundered.
I wrote that about BG this summer, and while this year hasn’t exactly lifted the nightmarish dream, I’m holding out hope the real Ben Gordon will eventually find the light again somewhere.
Will Gordon ever get back his old Chicago groove?
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