NBA AM: Pelicans’ Gordon Expecting Playoffs

Eric Gordon believes the New Orleans Pelicans will be a playoff team in 2014-15, as long as they’re healthy … Lamar Patterson signs overseas … Team USA trims roster to 16 players

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The New Orleans Pelicans had horrible luck when it came to injuries during the 2013-14 season.

Key contributors such as Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Jason Smith missed a combined 202 games and the team was never able to play to their full potential since the rotation was depleted due to a variety of ailments. Every NBA team has to deal with injuries, but few have to go through what the Pelicans did last season.

Prior to the onslaught of injuries, New Orleans’ offense looked downright scary, but then their players started dropping like flies and the team finished 34-48.

The Pelicans entered last season with playoff aspirations after adding Holiday and Evans over the summer, but the team just wasn’t healthy enough to live up to the lofty expectations. Now, entering the 2014-15 season, the Pelicans should be completely healthy and they’re hopeful they can end their three-year postseason drought. Gordon, who had surgery on his left knee in April, is working out and looking forward to seeing his team at full strength. He’s confident that the team can turn heads.

“If we’re healthy, we’re for sure a playoff team,” Gordon told Basketball Insiders. “It’s all about us getting together and playing because the West is tough. We know that and realize that. It’s all about having a full season together. … That’s what we got to see this year; we’ll have a fully-loaded team and it’s about all of us being healthy. It’s crazy to see how many guys were injured this past year.

“We never got a chance to play a full season together. We know we’re a very talented team and [have] a lot of talented individuals, but we just have to put it together and have a good healthy season.”

Gordon has dealt with a number of injuries over the last few years, which has been very frustrating for him. He has missed 18 or more games in five of his six seasons in the NBA, and he played in just 51 games in his first two seasons with the Pelicans. Not only has it been tough for him to miss games, the surgeries limited what he could do each offseason.

“These past three years have been kind of tough, having a surgery each year to deal with in the summer,” Gordon said. “To be able to play like I am, I need a full summer where I can be able to be myself and do the things that I’m normally doing. But it’s going to come back this year.

“[I’m] just working on my game, trying to get all of my explosiveness back and just looking forward to having a good year.”

Gordon has been in contact with his teammates, and he says that the group will likely get together for some offseason workouts before the start of training camp.

“I would say we’re all getting back into the groove of getting into shape and I’ve been in pretty good shape for a while now,” Gordon said. “I think guys are going to start getting back with each other in the next few weeks before training camp starts here in the next few months.”

In the meantime, Gordon has been at adidas Nations in California, where he’s supporting his younger brother Eron Gordon, who is a top high school recruit. The younger Gordon is a four-star point guard who has received offers from Indiana, Butler, Notre Dame and Arizona State among others.

“[He’s a] good player,” Gordon said of his younger brother. “He’s a scorer. He has similar features like me: pretty good shooter, loves getting to the basket, loves getting to the free throw line and a good defender. He’s been playing well so far. … I want to get the best out of him and I always want to see the best for him.

“I remember [playing in adidas Nations] like it was yesterday. Time has passed so much, but I feel like I was here not too long ago. It’s always a fun event.”

The Pelicans are certainly a team to watch next season. If they can stay healthy – and if Davis can continue his ascent to superstardom – New Orleans could be a scary team, even in the loaded Western Conference.

Hawks’ Patterson Signs in Turkey

Lamar Patterson, who was the 48th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft and acquired by the Atlanta Hawks on draft night, will begin his professional basketball career playing overseas. Rather than spending this season with the Hawks, Patterson will join the Tofas Sports Club in Turkey.

“I am excited about heading to Tofas in Turkey this season,” Patterson said in a press release. “The Turkish league is extremely competitive and the team also plays in a great international league called EuroChallenge.

“My goal absolutely remains to play for the Hawks and this is an important step to help me get there. I am going to continue working extremely hard this year and I will come back as an improved player who is ready to contribute in any way possible to help the Hawks win games.”

The Hawks will keep Patterson’s rights, but this will give him the chance to play and continue his development overseas.

Danny Ferry, the Hawks’ president of basketball operations and general manager, said that this will be good for Patterson’s development and made it clear that the team will be keeping a close eye on him throughout the season.

“Lamar is in a good position to continue his development while playing meaningful minutes for a strong professional program next season,” Ferry said. “We have a great respect for the international game and will be closely monitoring Lamar’s progress with Tofas.”

Last season, Patterson starred at Pittsburgh, averaging 17.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists. He blogged for Basketball Insiders throughout the pre-draft process to chronicle his experience.

Team USA Trims Roster to 16 Players

Sixteen players have been selected finalists for the 2014 USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Team roster, Team USA announced. The USA National Team is scheduled to resume its 2014 preparations for the FIBA Basketball World Cup on Aug. 14 in Chicago.

The finalists include three Olympic gold medalists from 2012 – Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans), Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) and James Harden (Houston Rockets); three 2010 World Championship gold medalists – Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors); Durant and Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls); and the addition of Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn Nets) to the 2014-16 USA National Team roster and to the list of finalists participating in Chicago. Plumlee began the Las Vegas training camp as a member of the 2014 USA Select Team.

In addition to Davis, Durant, Harden, Curry, Rose and Plumlee, the finalists include DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings); DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors); Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons); Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets); Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz); Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers); Kyle Korver (Atlanta Hawks); Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers); Chandler Parsons (Dallas Mavericks) and Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors).

“We have always approached representing our country as a privilege, a tremendous honor and USA Basketball is very appreciative of the willingness of our players to play for the United States and in their own patriotic way give back to their country,” said USA Basketball National Team Managing Director Jerry Colangelo. “Historically, the players involved in USA Basketball have become better players because of their experience. They have treasured their USA Basketball experience, as well as the incredible opportunity and honor it has been for them to demonstrate their patriotism and represent their country.

“Their willingness to represent the United States says a lot about our players’ patriotism and their willingness to sacrifice their time to this commitment.  Not every American has the opportunity to represent their country and our players have embraced each opportunity to do it. They have worn the USA jersey with respect and honor, and by their commitment they have made all Americans extremely proud.”

“We’re excited about where the team is headed,” said Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Really all 16 guys have a chance to make to the team, which usually does not happen in a training camp, and it shows that all of the guys thus far have done an excellent job. Then it’s just a matter of finding what chemistry that we can develop with the entire group and I don’t think we’ll know that until we play some exhibition games. The 16 guys give us a chance to look at a way of playing in a number of different ways and we just have to figure out what those ways are and then the 12 who will fit best.”

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