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NBA Saturday: Eric Gordon Credits D’Antoni, Teammates for his Success

Eric Gordon credits Mike D’Antoni and his teammates for his resurgence this season in Houston.

Jesse Blancarte

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Last July, I argued that the Houston Rockets were right to gamble on Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson in free agency. The Rockets were coming off of a very disappointing season and were in need of an infusion of talent. Gordon and Anderson are both talented players, but each has struggled with significant injury issues over the last few years. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was not deterred by this and signed both players to multi-year contracts.

We have reached All-Star Weekend and the NBA trade deadline is just days away, which means the playoffs are not too far away. At this point, the Rockets are 40-18 and have been one of the most surprising teams this season. They currently hold the third seed out west, trailing only the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs in the standings.

Part of the Rockets’ resurgence this season is attributable to Dwight Howard’s departure (which seemingly improved the team’s chemistry), James Harden becoming a nightly triple-double threat as the team’s de facto point guard, Mike D’Antoni coming in and encouraging his players to shoot early and often, as well as the durability and consistency of players like Anderson and Gordon.

This season, Gordon is averaging 17.2 points, 2.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds while shooting 41.8 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from beyond the arc in 52 games. He has taken on a sixth man role (something he had never been asked to do previously) for the team and has thrived within Houston’s free-flowing style of play.

“In my mind, I’ve always questioned it, but the thing is he’s a great communicator,” Gordon said when asked about Coach D’Antoni asking him to come off the bench. “You’ve got to do whatever it takes to win. Of course, I was going to try it. I just felt comfortable doing it. James [Harden] with the first unit, he does whatever he wants. With the second unit, the same with me, I do whatever I want.”

That freedom has put Gordon in a position to make a consistent impact in just 30.5 minutes per game (which is below his career average of 32.9 minutes). Gordon is putting up pretty efficient numbers, averaging 20.3 points, 3.3 assists and 3.2 rebounds per 36 minutes. These numbers are on par with his numbers from four year ago (arguably his best season in New Orleans) and close to his level of production from his third season in the NBA, when it looked like he would develop into one of the best shooting guards in the league as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Many years removed from those days, Gordon is embracing a smaller, but no less important role with the Rockets.

“As the sixth man, usually you don’t play as many minutes as most of the starters do and most of the guys who are starters, all five guys have been significant in their career and also have been stable in what they’re doing and bench guys are all about energy and doing what you can while you’re out there, so I just want to make a major impact anytime I’m on the floor,” Gordon said.

Health has always been the major issue with Gordon. Between several lower body injuries, Gordon has only played in 65 games or more in a single season four times throughout his nine-year NBA career. Gordon has missed just six games this season and seems more comfortable on the court than he has in recent years, which is a result of more than just good health.

“Change of scenery is always good,” Gordon said. “It was my decision to go to Houston. Houston is a great fit for me. They turned me into a major playmaker for this team and have given me the freedom to do what I want to on the court.

“It was a little bit dysfunctional. My role changed a lot [in New Orleans]. If I had the same freedom that I have [in Houston], it would have been a different result. It’s always been a little dysfunctional. Not just for me, for everybody. That’s something I wasn’t expecting when I first got here, got to New Orleans. Things happen, and you move on.”

Gordon has moved on, and credits D’Antoni and his new teammates for helping him be successful so far in Houston.

“I would say if anything, more freedom. I’ve been more of a playmaker for this team, I have the ball in my hands a lot more. And it’s all about the freedom and teammates looking for you at all times.”

The question moving forward is whether the Rockets, with the help of Gordon, can make a deep postseason run and give teams like the Spurs and Warriors a run for their money.

“Well yeah, [the Warriors] play the same style we do, go up and down,” Gordon said about matching up with Golden State. “Today, it’s all about how you play defense. Yeah, people kind of criticize the three-point shot, but those are the most open shots in the game, so it’s either layups of three-point shots. It’s all about who makes the most and who plays really good defense.

“I just think we match up with them well. We can play small ball like they can. We have enough size where we can play big, so I think it’ll be a great matchup.”

For now, Gordon is focused on putting together a good show at the Three-Point Contest, where he will face last year’s winner, Klay Thompson. When asked how he felt about his chances, Gordon refrained from predicting a win and simply noted that Thompson has the skill and experience to do well.

“It’ll be fun,” Gordon said about competing in the Three-Point Contest. “[Klay Thompson] has won it and he’s been in three-point contests a couple of times. He’s used to it and, of course, everyone wants to be the three-point champ.”

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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Adam Silver Believes Next Year’s ASG Draft Will be Televised

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he was pleased with the new format for the league’s All-Star Game and believed that next year’s player draft would be televised.

“I thought it was incredible. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of the players,” Silver told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne following a 148-145 win for Team LeBron over Team Stephen at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Source: ESPN

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2018 NBA All-Star Sunday Recap

Michael Petrower recaps the All-Star Game from Sunday in Los Angeles.

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The 2018 NBA All Star Game had some added appeal this year, with Captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry selecting playground style from the pool of All-Stars. Although it was not televised, it drew a lot of interest to say the least.

Team Lebron was headlined by Kevin Durant (the alleged first pick), Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving. Sadly, Team Lebron suffered big losses with John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Kevin Love and Kristaps Porzingis going down with injuries. Team Stephen was led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Joel Embiid and Demar DeRozan.

NBA fans were ready to indulge on the highlight real of plays to commence…That was, until the NBA inflicted a marathon-like performance that seemed a bit unnecessary, to say the least. Kevin Hart was at the center of theatrics that had NBA fans scratching their heads questioning what was on their television screen. Fergie topped off the saga with what was one of the more questionable national anthems we’ve seen in recent years. However, if you stuck around long enough, the game started at 8:40 PM EST and the flashy plays that we hoped for, began.

Joel Embiid made his first A;l-Star game appearance and kicked off the scoring festivities for Team Stephen with a ferocious and-one dunk. Team Stephen led all of the first quarter and won the quarter 42-31. Karl Anthony Towns led the first quarter scoring with 11 points. Team LeBron, however would storm back and cut the lead to two, 78-76 at half. LeBron came into his 14th straight All-Star game and lead his team at the half with 15 points. Klay Thompson also lead Team Stephen with 15 points at half.

The second half ensued and after some back and forth between the two teams, Team Stephen was leading by three going into the fourth quarter, 112-109. Team Stephen grew their lead to 11 while LeBron and KD got some rest. But after the two came back in, the 11-point deficit was erased after a LeBron three and the teams were now tied at 144 with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter.

DeRozan would make a free throw to put Team Stephen up one point, but Lebron followed with a strong two-pointer to put his team up one. DeRozan tried to answer, but threw away a pass which resulted in an easy two points for Russell Westbrook to ice the game. Team LeBron was the 2018 All Star Game winner with a score of 148-145.

LeBron James went on to win his third All Star MVP after finishing with 29 points to go along with 10 rebounds, eigh assists and a steal on 12-17 shooting. DeRozan and Damian Lillard lead Team Stephen with 21 points each.

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VIDEO: James Harden – 2018 NBA All-Star

Houston Rockets star James Harden talks about speaking out as an athlete, his Rockets team and more.

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Houston Rockets star James Harden talks about speaking out as an athlete, his Rockets team and more.

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