NEW ORLEANS – Eric Gordon remains a central figure in the Hornets’ long term plans, even though the prolific shooting guard turned down a four-year extension offer from the club, New Orleans general manager Dell Demps said.
“It’s a situation where we talked, thought we came close to an agreement and it just didn’t work out, but we are still very optimistic we can get something done this summer,” Demps, who was travelling Thursday, said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “It’s not a big issue. It’s not a situation that is uncommon. … There are other measures that you can use to sign Eric to a long-term contract and that’s our goal.”
By passing on the Hornets’ offer, Gordon essentially chose to become a restricted free agent when the next league year begins July 1. While other teams can make offers to Gordon at that time, the Hornets will have the right to match or exceed the maximum offer other teams are allowed to make.
The Hornets, who host Orlando on Friday night, did not practice on Thursday, but Gordon, who has been sidelined by a right knee bruise, released a statement through the team.
“We all worked hard on the extension, but sometimes business is business,” Gordon said. “Right now my sole focus is on staying in great shape, and making sure I get back to 100 per cent health as quickly as possible so I can return to playing and helping my teammates and coach Monty (Williams) win games. That is really what it is all about right now for me.”
Demps declined to go into detail about the value of the extension Gordon was offered.
Under league rules, the maximum a four-year deal could have been worth would have been a little more than US$60 million, which is the deal Kevin Love accepted from Minnesota on Wednesday. The Hornets also could have offered Gordon a maximum five-year deal worth around $78 million, similar to what Russell Westbrook received from Oklahoma City.
However, league rules also restrict teams to only one player with a five-year extension for maximum money, and the Hornets have not been able to see Gordon play much in their system because of his injury, which has sidelined him for all but two games.
The Hornets currently are owned by the NBA, meaning commissioner David Stern, who is temporarily acting in the role of team owner, had the final say in what kind of deal the Hornets could offer Gordon.
“We were authorized to make a deal, we had conversations that were productive, and although we didn’t come to an agreement, the talks were amicable,” Demps said.
Gordon, who turned 23 last month, came to New Orleans as a key component of a multiplayer trade shortly before the regular season that sent four-time all-star point guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers. Under NBA rules, players who were due to become restricted free agents at the end of this season had until midnight Wednesday to reach early extensions with their teams.
Gordon injured his knee during New Orleans’ season opener, in which he also hit the winning shot to cap a 20-point outing in Phoenix. During that game, he banged knees with Grant Hill. Gordon attempted a comeback on Jan. 4, when he scored 22 points in a loss to Philadelphia, but has been out since.
Demps said Gordon will be out at least three more weeks, at which time he will be reevaluated and possibly be able to begin basketball activities.
Gordon’s knee is structurally sound, Demps said, but that the Hornets are taking cautious approach.
“After consulting with doctors, it was agreed upon that rest and rehabilitation would be the best long-term solution for Eric,” Demps said. “Whenever you’re dealing with knees, you want to take correct steps that will not have negative long-term results.”
Gordon averaged 22.3 points last season, his third as a pro since being selected seventh overall out of Indiana in the 2008 NBA draft.
He missed 20 or more games in each of the previous two seasons with various, relatively minor injuries. In his second season, he missed 20 games with a combination of ailments including a groin injury and sprained toe. Last season, he missed 26 games because of a right wrist injury.
The Hornets are 1-1 in games Gordon has played this season and 2-14 in games he has missed. While New Orleans has played solid enough defence to remain competitive in most of its games, playing without Gordon’s scoring punch has hurt in the final minutes. Of New Orleans’ 15 losses, 10 have come by single digits, including three-straight two-point defeats before Wednesday night’s 10-point loss to the Western Conference-leading Thunder.