After parting ways with Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Jason Maxiell and Ronnie Price among others over the last week, the Orlando Magic are desperate for veterans. The team is obviously focused on their young core moving forward, but Magic general manager Rob Hennigan and his staff understand that they need some experienced individuals around the youngsters as they continue their development.
That’s why the team agreed to terms on a partially guaranteed two-year, $9 million deal with Ben Gordon earlier this week and claimed Willie Green off of waivers shortly after the veteran guard was released by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Gordon, who made an appearance at the Orlando Summer League on Sunday, understands his role and can’t wait to start making an impact on the Magic.
“They wanted me, they wanted a veteran guard to come in and help the team and help along the young guys,” Gordon said. “That’s just something I’m looking forward to. … We have talented pieces; we have athletic guys at various positions so we’ll what happens.”
Gordon is looking forward to being the elder statesmen in the locker room, which is a role he has gotten used to after doing it in Charlotte and Detroit.
“One thing you learn about the league is different years you’re in different situations,” Gordon said. “This is something I’m familiar with, playing with a group of young guys. I’m just looking to feed off of their energy and I’m going to assist them in any way I can and just be a big part of their success and at the same time just kind of revitalize myself. I’m giving myself another opportunity to go out there and be successful.”
Gordon is coming off of the worst season of his career, a 19-game stint with the Charlotte Hornets in which he averaged 5.2 points. It was the first time in his career that he hadn’t averaged in double figures and he fell out of the rotation in Charlotte. He was eventually bought out by the team, one day after the deadline for waived players to be playoff eligible. This forced Gordon to sit out for the remainder of the 2013-14 season, working out individually and trying to get ready for the 2014-15 campaign.
This summer, Gordon received interest from a number of teams, but opted to sign with the Magic because he felt there would be a role for him and because he’s close with Magic assistant general managers Scott Perry (dating back to their days on the Detroit Pistons) and Matt Lloyd (dating back to their days on the Chicago Bulls). Gordon worked out for the Magic’s front office and they inked the deal shortly after.
“Knowing Scott and being able to build a relationship with him over the years and come in and work out for them and them being happy with my workout, I think those are the two major catalysts,” Gordon said when asked why he landed in Orlando. “I’m just kind of looking to reestablish myself and just go out there and have fun. This is a young group of guys that plays the game hard with a lot of excitement. I think having some veteran guys that have been around that can share some experiences with them will help them and it gives me another opportunity to reestablish myself.”
Initially, the Magic were heavily criticized for the move, since it seemed like a lot of money to give an aging veteran who’s coming off of a career-worst year. Gordon couldn’t care less what the doubters have to say about him though.
“I just want to be successful like any other basketball player, whether people are happy with what I do or not I can’t really control that,” Gordon said. “I just got my goals that I want to live up to and as long as I prove that to myself then I’ll be satisfied.”
Right now, Orlando has a lot of talented athletes and defenders on their roster, but their biggest needs seem to be scoring and shooting. Gordon feels like he can step in and fill that void.
“I think once we get closer to camp those things will sort themselves out; I’ve always been able to score and shoot the basketball,” Gordon said. “I don’t know to what capacity that will be in on this team but we’ll see what happens.”