The New Orleans Hornets, rebuilding through the draft and in-house talent, matched the Phoenix Suns’ four-year, $58 million offer to Eric Gordon, keeping the restricted free agent guard in New Orleans.
The move to retain Gordon was expected, as Hornets general manager Dell Demps and coach Monty Williams had indicated they hoped the 23-year-old former Indiana standout could be the centerpiece of a rebuilding effort that will also include first overall draft choice Anthony Davis and No. 10 pick Austin Rivers.
Whether the decision will be palatable to fans remains to be seen. Last week, in the days before signing the Suns’ offer sheet, Gordon said he hoped to play for Phoenix, but that did not deter New Orleans from retaining his rights.
”Eric is a phenomenal player that we are thrilled to have in our organization,” Demps said.
Gordon, meanwhile, sounded more conciliatory in a statement released by the Hornets.
”There is always a business element to the NBA when dealing with contracts, but I never lost my appreciation for New Orleans,” Gordon said. ”I look forward to giving my very best on the court this season to make our team successful.”
Gordon was limited to nine games last season because of a bruised right knee that required minor surgery. However, he averaged a team-high 20.6 points, and New Orleans was 6-3 when he played.
The Hornets acquired Gordon shortly before last season in a multi-player trade that sent All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers.
when free agency began this month, Gordon went on a tour of teams interested in his services and got an offer from Pheonix that represented the maximum a team could pay for another team’s restricted free agent.
Gordon then said he hoped to play for the Suns because they made more of an effort to sign him than the Hornets had. Gordon said the Hornets’ decision to draft Rivers, who had played Gordon’s position of shooting guard in college, indicated that New Orleans was moving in a different direction. Gordon added that the Hornets also had failed to address the need for more front-court players.
Since Gordon’s comments, however, the Hornets have acquired 6-foot-10 forward Ryan Anderson, and have traded away former starting point guard Jarrett Jack in a deal that cleared about $5 million under the salary cap to help New Orleans seek another big man in free agency.