New Orleans coach Monty Williams hasn’t had a chance to talk with Eric Gordon yet about how much Gordon wants to leave Williams and New Orleans behind. He was going to at Team USA camp this week in Las Vegas, but then Gordon was cut in favor of James Harden. Gordon already turned down one four-year, $50-million deal in the winter, and has since shown a longing to play in Phoenix, which wooed him as a restricted free agent, and a baffling misunderstanding of what it means to be a RFA. Now Williams, speaking from Las Vegas, is giving the world the universal “pump the brakes” sign on Gordon’s behalf.
His take, as reported in the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday, is this: I’ve been there before, and I was young and dumb once, too. Gordon’s want to join Phoenix after a four-year, $58-million max deal is natural, but so is New Orleans for wanting one of the top-five shooting guards in the NBA to return. Williams is, as usual, understanding, eloquent and level-headed about all of this, which is how he coaches, too.
“He had to get out of town. I think he’s a bit frustrated,” said Williams, who was in Las Vegas on Sunday to watch rookie Anthony Davis, who also did not make the Olympic roster. “You know, I’ve done it. I talked to (San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich) last night, and I brought up an instance where I kind of said some things I probably should not have said. I don’t take it seriously. What Eric said is not who he is. It’s unfortunate because people at home are pretty upset about it.”
“Everywhere I go, somebody’s got something to say. What I would say is, ‘Let’s understand how we were when we were 23.’ Give the kid some mercy. We still love him. We’re not upset with him. We understand the process. It’s unfortunate that it happened this way, but that’s just a part of it.”
“I did the same thing when I was that age,” said Williams, who played nine years in the NBA. “You want what your peers get; you want more, and none of us are worth this kind of money. I try not to get much further than that. I think it’s unfortunate that it has played out this way, but I think it will blow over soon.”
Williams is only doing the only thing he could, mind you. He’s not going to poison the well with several seasons ahead of working with Gordon. For as bad as New Orleans was last season, Williams has mild leverage. First is that he can play with a defensive stopper in Anthony Davis and a big who can spread the floor in Ryan Anderson. When Gordon decides to dump the ball off it’s a pretty thing; it just doesn’t happen often. Now he has a guy he can dump to on a drive down low and also someone to kick to the wing as he penetrates. The team will be better than Phoenix was going to be while still offering Gordon the chance to run the show offensively.
If this is about “basketball reasons” then Gordon’s in a better spot with New Orleans, while still being paid as much as he was as a Sun. The prodigal son will be just fine if he chooses to be, starting with getting Williams’ backing.
What do you think of Williams backing up Gordon?
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