The very nature of the restricted free agency process is awkward. Teams that go there essentially tell a player, “You go find out what the open market will offer for you, then we’ll decide if we like you that much.”
It’s in our human nature to be wanted, to be appreciated. So these players go out on the open market and get wooed. GMs tell them how much they love their skills and what a fit they are, fans start to buzz thinking they could land a new young star. With all that going on, the player gets and offer and he’s excited about a new start. Then the old team can just say, “yes, we’ll keep you” and everything is suddenly snapped back to the way it was. Just with a bigger paycheck.
So it was with Eric Gordon.
The Phoenix Suns wooed him, Gordon felt loved and asked the New Orleans Hornets not to match the Phoenix offer, that his heart was in the Valley of the Sun. The Hornets matched anyway, as they always said they would.
Now Gordon has some relationship repairing to do with the fans in the Big Easy and he told Marc Spears of Yahoo he gets that.
“I wish I could’ve done a little better with the fan perception,” Gordon told Yahoo! Sports. “But also at the same time they don’t know the business perspective of how negotiations are handled. They don’t know how being a restricted free agent can be mind-boggling for a player….”
Gordon has had several conversations with Hornets coach Monty Williams, but was disappointed about not hearing anything from general manager Dell Demps, the Hornets’ new ownership group led by Tom Benson or any other front-office member. He still has yet to speak to the Hornets’ brass.
“All I could do was communicate with the coach,” Gordon said. “That was the only communication I had. My agent [Robert Pelinka] was the only one communicating with the GM and the other front-office people. That was very different for me to go through.”
Again, it’s about feeling wanted.
But what cures all ills is winning… well that and $58 million. Winning may not happen immediately but in the Hornets case it is about showing the potential of winning down the road. That is a balm for fans and will make Gordon feel good.
And the Hornets have potential. They have Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson (the Orlando stretch four acquired via trade) up front, with Gordon and just-drafted Austin Rivers in the backcourt. (If Rivers can play the point remains a question to be answered.) You can see a young elite team in that core.
If that potential starts to be realized all this will be long forgotten.