NBA players often like to use cliches and tell you that one game is no different from the next and they’re only thinking about their next opponent. Eric Gordon feels differently.
The Houston Rockets beat the Golden State Warriors 118-112 on the road on Saturday night, and they did so without James Harden. Gordon called the win “special” for Houston.
Eric Gordon: “I truly believe we’re their toughest opponent. This is another game to them. We have to continue trying to be a championship team. This is another game to them, but it’s a special win for us.”
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) February 24, 2019
The win was special for a number of reasons. One, Houston is chasing Golden State. The teams went seven games in the Western Conference finals last season before the Warriors won out and advanced to the Finals. Two, beating the top team without their best player is a big accomplishment. And three, Houston had recently blown huge leads against the Lakers and Thunder and lost both games. Rebounding from the Thursday loss to the Lakers with Saturday’s road win at Golden State without Harden is a huge statement.
The Houston Rockets continue to be a major disappointment this season and may be making a change to their starting lineup in hopes of shaking things up.
Both The Athletic’s Kelly Iko and Shams Charania reported on Monday that Houston may move Eric Gordon into the starting lineup on Tuesday in place of James Ennis.
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) December 11, 2018
Ennis, James Harden, Clint Capela, Chris Paul, and PJ Tucker have started most of the team’s games this season. Gordon has been leading the bench unit and was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year two seasons ago, though he has made 8 starts this season.
Gordon has averaged 15.7 points per game this season, compared to 8.3 for Ennis. The Rockets are 11-14 and have lost 7 of their last 9 games. Head coach Mike D’Antoni had previously hinted at some changes being made to the team’s starting lineup.
The Houston Rockets can’t seem to break out of their funk in a season where they were one of the favorites in the Western Conference, and at least one player appears to be pointing the finger at the team’s coaching staff.
Following Thursday night’s 118-91 loss to the Utah Jazz, which was Houston’s sixth in its last eight games, veteran guard Eric Gordon shared some of his frustrations with Kelly Iko of The Athletic. One comment in particular probably won’t sit well with Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni.
“I’m just not having fun man. I’m just not. This sucks,” Gordon said. “Even the times where I have good games. We’re just not using some guys the right way. Are we gonna make the right sacrifices? Do we have the right attitude?”
It’s hard to interpret Gordon’s assertion that the team is “not using some guys the right way” as anything other than a criticism of the coaching staff. The Rockets certainly have the personnel to compete, but they have been unable to string wins together.
Iko offered a theory as to what may be bothering Gordon:
So who’s being misused? Could it be himself he was talking about? Gordon is certainly able to create his own offense, and against the Jazz he wasn’t afforded that many opportunities. Is it a coaching thing? Perhaps he’d like to see the offense open up a bit more, especially in half-court scenarios.
The Rockets always start games running dribble handoffs involving multiple players, maybe he’d want to see more of that going forward. Adding more wrinkles to an offense that’s capable of elite production might do some good. After all, doing the same thing over and over and expecting something different is the definition of insanity.
The Rockets rank 21st in the NBA with 108.5 points per game. They finished last season ranked 2nd in that category. Houston has had to play some of its starters extra minutes due to depth issues that D’Antoni recently expressed concern over, so perhaps that is part of what Gordon is referring to.
Whatever the case, the Rockets are a team that is losing more often than not in a season where expectations were sky high. That always creates frustration, and Gordon isn’t the only player in the locker room feeling that.
Eric Gordon is not expected to extend his current contract with the Houston Rockets, according to a report.
The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen reported Thursday that Gordon’s representatives and the Rockets have had discussions regarding an extension. However, with no progress being made, Gordon is expected to play out the remaining two years on his contract without receiving an extension.
“There was extension talks, but nothing really serious,” Gordon told The Houston Chronicle. “I would much rather be here as long as I can. Everything will work out. I’ll be here another two years. We’ll see what happens. I’ll see how the next two years go, but I would definitely like to be here the rest of my career.”
Gordon has been an important piece of the Rockets’ success since being traded to the team in 2011. In 2017, Gordon was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year after averaging 16 points and connecting on 37 percent of his three-pointers.
Houston has reportedly considered starting Gordon this season following the losses of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute during the offseason. If that is indeed the case, Gordon’s value could receive a substantial boost and give him more leverage in contract negotiations.
How much did the Houston Rockets miss Chris Paul in the last two games of the Western Conference Finals? So much that even the player who took on a bigger role in his absence believe’s CP3’s injury was the difference in the series.
Following Houston’s loss in Game 7 on Monday, Eric Gordon boldly stated that the Rockets would be heading to the Finals if Paul didn’t suffer a hamstring injury.
“It sucks because you know you could win this series if we just had one more playmaker,” he said, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “If we had Chris, if he was out there, we’d have been playing on Thursday. It’s just tough.”
Gordon scored 23 points in Game 7, but he and his teammates shot historically bad from beyond the arc. Gordon connected on just 2-of-12 3-point attempts, and the Rockets were 7-of-44 as a team. There was one stretch where they went about 24 minutes of game time without hitting a single 3-pointer.
Houston took sizable leads into halftime of Game 6 and Game 7, but Mike D’Antoni noted how Paul’s leadership was missed in the second half of each of those games.
“That’s what C.P. was so good at in two [of the] games we won,” the Rockets coach said. “They’d make a little run, he’d hit a 3. They make another run, and he makes another play. And you have to have those momentum changers and stoppers, and the last two games, we didn’t have them.”
The Rockets had plenty of chances even without Paul, which is something their general manager alluded to on Monday night. Still, you have to think CP3 could have at least helped stave off some of those huge Golden State runs. As for whether or not he would have been the difference in the series, we will never know.
The Houston Rockets’ big win over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday was tempered somewhat by the late injury that star guard Chris Paul suffered, but it sounds like they already have a plan in place in case he misses time.
Paul was injured in the final 30 seconds of the Rockets’ 98-94 victory in Game 5 of their Western Conference Finals series when he appeared to hurt his right hamstring on a floater attempt and was unable to finish the game.
Speaking with reporters afterwards, Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni did not sound particularly optimistic about Paul’s status and said that the nine-time All-Star was not in good spirits, per Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated.
Rockets' Mike D'Antoni on Chris Paul: "We'll see. He'll be evaluated tomorrow. They'll do whatever they can do. If he's there [for Game 6], great, good for him… His spirits aren't great. He wanted to be out there. That's normal."
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 25, 2018
D’Antoni also said that Rockets guard Eric Gordon would shift into the role of playmaker in the event that Paul missed time, per Marc J. Spears of ESPN.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said Eric Gordon will move to the role of playmaker if Chris Paul doesn’t return from a hamstring injury in Game 6.
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) May 25, 2018
Gordon, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, scored 24 points in the win on Thursday and is now up to 18.2 points a game for the series. He has come off the bench in every single game however, and the Rockets don’t usually use him as much of an initiator. Still, Gordon used to average four-plus assists a game for the LA Clippers back in the day, so he at least has it in his arsenal.
Andre Iguodala’s numbers are down across the board, Lou Williams will presumably be starting for the rest of the season with Patrick Beverley out of commission, and Jamal Crawford has probably run out of legacy votes. As such, we should be getting a lot of new blood in the race to win Sixth Man of the Year this season. Here are some challengers to float your banana boat.
*Stats courtesy of NBA.com and ESPN*
Willie Cauley-Stein, PF/C, Sacramento Kings
The Kings’ bench is incinerating opponents with a league-leading 49.1 points per game this season. The effort is being spearheaded by Cauley-Stein, who has been a whirling speed demon on both ends of the court. Trillie, as he is better known colloquially, offers double-double upside nearly every night and has the speed, length, and bounce to pester both backcourt and frontcourt players on defense as well. Now that Sacramento appears to have settled on starting Zach Randolph and Skal Labissiere down low, we should be in for many more months of Cauley-Stein raising the roof as first man off the bench.
Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG, Los Angeles Lakers