Eric Gordon's doing what Eric Gordon's always done, just for a better team

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eric_gordon_team_usa2.jpgEric Gordon has played quite well as a member of Team USA. Even though he hasn’t been all that consistent (but then again, Durant notwithstanding, who has?), Gordon has been the Americans’ most prolific three-point shooter in the World Championships thus far. He shoots the international three with ease, and with so much attention being paid to Team USA’s creators on the perimeter, Gordon’s shooting savvy has helped him feast on the weak side.

While Gordon was considered by many to be a curious selection on the Team USA roster, this is who he is. Gordon isn’t stepping up. He’s not busting out. He’s playing the same way that he plays in every game of the Los Angeles Clippers’ season, but with the benefit of better teammates.

Gordon’s points per 36 minutes are up a few ticks in the World Championships (from 16.9 in the NBA last season to 20.0 at FIBA this summer), but the discrepancy is easily accounted for. Gordon has seen his shot attempts go up on a per-minute basis, and with Team USA’s frequent opportunities in transition, it’s no wonder that Gordon has been a touch more productive and efficient from the floor.

In terms of skill and production, this isn’t some radically improved Gordon than the one we’ve seen play for the Clippers over the last two season. He’s a physical — if undersized — defender, a three-point threat, and an all-around efficient scorer.

In fact, one could even argue that Team USA hasn’t had the benefit of a fully empowered Gordon. One of the stronger aspects of his NBA game has been suppressed by his role with Team USA: drawing fouls. Gordon isn’t strictly a jump-shooter. He’s able to create contact off the dribble, and had he played a full season last year, the frequency of his free throw attempts would put him just outside the top 20 in that measure. That statistical distinction is otherwise reserved for stars, quasi-stars, and Corey Maggette, which puts Gordon in rather superb offensive company.

With Team USA though, asking Gordon to create off the dribble (even if he’s capable of drawing fouls at a decent rate) doesn’t make all that much sense. The squad is already overflowing with ball-handlers, most of which lack Gordon’s ability to spot-up on the perimeter. That makes Gordon’s role a bit clear-cut, even if he’s a more versatile offensive player than his FIBA performance suggests.

The only jump Gordon has made this summer is in exposure. The Clippers don’t traditionally get much media burn, and their NBA irrelevance over the last two seasons has cast Gordon in the background. He’s still somewhat undervalued on Team USA — even in spite of performances like his 21-point, three-steal outing against Tunisia today — but a national audience is finally learning to appreciate Gordon for all of his basketball talents. It’s about time.

Dwyane Wade: Making Carmelo Anthony ‘fall guy’ doesn’t address the ‘real problem’

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LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul – the banana-boat buddies – comprise the NBA’s most famous friendship group.

With Anthony nearing his end with the Rockets, that puts Houston teammate Paul in an awkward place. But Wade and LeBron are speaking up. So are the Trail Blazers’ Evan Turner and Damian Lillard.

Wade:

LeBron:

Evan Turner:

Damian Lillard:

It’s unclear whether Wade is scolding the Rockets or fans/media. That comment is far more loaded if he’s referring directly to the organization. I wonder what he sees at the “real problem” in Houston.

A struggling team waiving a minimum-salary player is rarely viewed as making that player the scapegoat. But Anthony has an outsized reputation due to his long, star-level career. With that in mind, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tried to defend Anthony.

But Anthony is a part of Houston’s problems. He’s awful defensively and shooting poorly. There is mounting evidence he’s washed up. Downgrading his role, whether or not that includes waiving him, is a step in the right direction for the Rockets.

It won’t solve everything, and Anthony – after all that he has done in the NBA – should be treated with respect. But there’s no way around his substandard current level of play.

Report: Jimmy Butler planned to hold out from Timberwolves unless traded, informing team during Friday’s game

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According to one narrative, the Timberwolves decided after Friday’s loss to the Kings to trade Jimmy Butler.

But he might have forced their hand, resulting in his trade to the 76ers.

Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Butler decided he would play on Friday night, but he viewed it as the fork in the road. If the Timberwolves didn’t find a deal to fulfill his long-simmering trade request after that, he would begin to sit indefinitely, league sources told The Athletic.

The Kings defeated Minnesota 121-110 to push the Timberwolves to 4-9 and a winless road trip; Butler had 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 41 minutes. He had played almost 124 minutes in the last three games, all losses, and at halftime of the final one, the Wolves were informed that this was it for Butler, sources said.

Butler reportedly held out for a game a couple weeks ago, though he and Minnesota both denied it. It’s quite believable he would’ve held out again if not traded. Still, informing the team during a game he’s playing would have been quite bold.

I’m not sure who actually blinked first. This could be an I-quit, no-you’re-fired (or vice versa) scenario. Both Butler and Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau are stubborn.

But the most important thing is Butler is gone and both sides can move on – whatever ugliness preceded the trade.

Jimmy Butler on being a Sixer: ‘I’m ready to get started, we got a little ways to go’

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Jimmy Butler is officially a member of the 76ers.

His plane landed in Philly Monday and a camera crew from NBC Sports Philadelphia was there to get his first words on being a member of the Sixers. (You can see the video above.)

“I’m ready to get started, we got a little ways to go, we got some things to figure out. But all-in-all, I look forward to it,” Butler said out the window of the car that picked him up.

What should Sixers fans expect?

“Hard playing. A guy that wants to win. We got some things we want to get done here, we want to win a championship. I think the core group of guys we have, we’ll figure out a way to get it done.”

After that he rolled up the window and drove off… and we assume cranked up the country music.

Karl-Anthony Towns takes high road, praises Jimmy Butler after trade

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Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler did not mesh. Off the court in particular, although this season on it the Timberwolves were -7.1 points per 100 possessions when they were paired (a sharp change from a year ago when the pair were +10.2). Butler wanted out and started trying to burn down the franchise and lob grenades at practice. It took Tom Thibodeau longer than anyone else to see this was never going to work, but once he did the move was made and Butler was traded to Philadelphia.

Towns, who some around the league felt was too timid through this drama and should have stood up to Butler, took the high road after the trade and had nothing but kind words about Butler. Andrew Wiggins took the same path. From Malika Andrews of ESPN.

“He’s one hell of a player,” Towns said Sunday. “I don’t know how many Jimmy Butlers there are in the world, so I think he’ll be missed.”

“I learned a lot of things from him,” Wiggins said of Butler. “We made the playoffs, something we haven’t done in a long, long time. So I think it was a positive either way you put it.”

Classy.

We’ll see how that plays out Jan. 15 when Butler and the Sixers host Towns and the Timberwolves.