Looking for stability in a season with little of that clippers reached out to a player who wasn’t in the squad until a month ago.
“I think he gives us a calm when he’s on the ground,” Coach said Tyron Lue called.
Amid a rotation in which game time is constantly evaluated, it has taken the Clippers little time to embrace the new face as part of the lineups that most often end tight games.
“It depends on trust, we trust him with the ball” All Star Paul George called. “He’ll make the right plays.”
This player is Eric Gordonthe 34-year-old, 6-foot-3 reserve guard whose 89 minutes in the fourth quarter since his Clippers debut on Feb. 14 is the team’s second-highest total in that span, surpassed only by George’s 104. The Clippers have outperformed their opponents by 47 points in those Gordon minutes, a plus/minus that is not only a team high but also the sixth-best fourth quarter plus/minus in the NBA since 14.02.
After 14 points in Wednesday’s third quarter against Golden State, Gordon played the final six minutes of the fourth quarter to end the Clippers’ crucial fourth straight win.
“I’ve always been this sticky guy who has a comforting feel to a team where I can go into a game and change the game and just change different facets and know how to fit in,” Gordon told the Times. “Every team I’ve been on, good team, bad team, I’ve always found ways to fit in.”
The Clippers traded for Gordon, believing he could bring that sense of security to their lineups. It’s a role he’s extraordinarily comfortable in, considering the stakes — even amid the Clippers’ championship aspirations — don’t matter that much once you’ve played through the basketball season, surrounded by safety, in fact.
Before turning an NBA pro for 15 years, Gordon was one of America’s finest recruits, a guard built like a security man who could force the ball in the basket. His verbal commitment to Illinois caused chaos. So did his decision to step down from his non-binding commitment and switch allegiances to conference rival Indiana after the Hoosiers hired coach Kelvin Sampson.
After the move, Gordon was overwhelmed by fan backlash and spent his senior year of high school in Indianapolis, accompanied by a personal security guard. When he arrived in Indiana, his security detail was expanded to two people, Gordon recalled Wednesday, saying Illinois fans sometimes tried to get close to him as he walked the Bloomington campus.
All of this was noise that reached a crescendo during Indiana’s away game in Illinois on February 7, 2008.
The announcement of Gordon’s name during the pregame announcements was almost drowned out by boos from an Illini crowd, later described by Indianas student newspaper as “seething with hatred of Gordon”. As Gordon jogged to the midcourt for a traditional meeting of the appetizers, Illinois guard Chester Frazier punched Gordon in the chest hard enough to knock the Hoosier guard several steps backward. Gordon heard shouts of “liar” and scored just one point in the first half. He would finish at 19 in an Indiana double overtime win — one saved when Gordon’s three-pointers tied for a rule with 25 seconds remaining.
Also late in the game, ESPN reported at the time, beads were thrown at a portion of the fans, which included Gordon’s parents. Gordon recalled on Wednesday that four security guards had been hired to protect his parents for that game.
The experience changed what he saw as pressure. While asked to distribute the ground, defend and complement Clippers stars George and Kawhi Leonard In the midst of a title boost, it’s not quite the same as living through a game he’s taken personally, either.
“In the NBA you have to constantly fight your way through adversity, team to team, no matter what the situation on the court, it’s all about figuring it out and overcoming adversity,” Gordon told the Times. “And I learned a lot of that in high school and college.
“In college, nothing really went to our liking. We had a great team, they always wanted to fire the coach, they fired him and our season ended badly – and then the Illinois stuff. It was just good to have this experience.”
The Clippers benefit from this.
Given his long-range credentials, Gordon’s shooting threat would be the primary reason for holding him late, but he’s shot just 32% in the fourth as a clipper, including just four for 18 on three-point attempts. But Gordon has been reliable in limiting his errors – 15 assists against just two turnovers – and finding ways to improve the larger group, including defensively. When Gordon is on court in the fourth quarter, opponents have only made 40.9% of their shots, the second-best mark on the list. When he’s out, opponent have shot 55%. This 14 percentage point gap is the biggest on-off swing in the team.
To open Wednesday’s second half against the Warriors, Lue pinned Gordon into the starting lineup created by the ejection from Marcus Morris Sr., and Gordon responded with four threes from averaging 26 feet in the third quarter — something The Clippers crave keen on pulling his defender that much further out of the basket and also away from helping defensive stars George and Leonard. Gordon returned in the fourth quarter with the Clippers leading by seven points and played the final six minutes of an eight-point win.
“I’ve just watched him and played against him over the years, he just always played his part, whatever the team asked him to do,” Lue said. “He walked in and said the exact same thing to me, like, ‘Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.’ And it fits great.”
Gordon isn’t the only newcomer bringing this message of sacrifice to Lue. Gordon’s emergence as a closer has often sidelined starting guard, Russell Westbrook. Yet Westbrook was impressive again in his 27 minutes, with 15 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and no turnovers while remaining disciplined which shots he made against a defense that lured him into undisputed jump shots.
“You think of Russ, you think of relentless,” George said. “And that was the impression he gave the game.”
Several clippers cemented the winning streak and increased comfort of rotary players Gordon, Westbrook and Mason Plumlee, all added on or after the Feb. 9 close as a result of more practice time than usual over the past week. But that doesn’t quite explain the trend reversal, Gordon said. Two weeks after post-game comments following a loss to Golden State, in which he laid the blame for a late-season rebound on the players, Gordon stood in the locker room late Wednesday and said a change in mindset made it possible that this became a reality.
George repeated that now: “We play for each other and we expect to win – that was the big difference.”
And they’ve felt a difference with Gordon’s calmness in the clutch.
“I’m never afraid to take a hard shot at the end of the game because there’s going to be a lot more moments in the game in the playoffs or whatever, you just have to be willing to take those down,” he said.
In just a month with the Clippers, Gordon has already seen the toll of a five-game losing streak and the rejuvenation of a four-game winning streak. He keeps an eye on it. He’s been through worse.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
Source : sports.yahoo.com