As the Houston Rockets focus on a full rebuild around the recent No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Jalen Green, and third-year shooting guard Kevin Porter Jr., many are wondering where that leaves veteran sharpshooter Eric Gordon in all of this. The team already came to an agreement with five-time All-Star guard John Wall that they would find a trade for him, and he will remain sidelined until that happens.
But Gordon reportedly hasn’t requested a trade from the team. However, he is open to being traded to “a more favorable situation,” per The Athletic’s Kelly Iko.
“They always know, and it’s definitely not easy for my position,” Gordon says about Houston understanding how he feels. “But my ultimate goal is to just go out there and play, help, show that I’m healthy and gravitate to these guys to get better.”
After the mass exodus that took place within the Rockets’ organization over the past two years that resulted in head coach Mike D’Antoni leaving, general manager Daryl Morey bolting and the trades of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, Gordon’s place on the roster doesn’t make as much sense as it did when the team was chasing championships.
However, that doesn’t mean he’s itching to leave, either. The Rockets reportedly would “love” if Gordon stayed, per Iko, as he would provide a veteran presence on a roster that skews way younger now than it did two years ago. But being a vocal leader isn’t something Gordon is accustomed to after playing alongside the likes of Chris Paul, Westbrook and Harden since joining the Rockets in 2016.
“When you’re winning, you don’t have to be vocal,” Gordon says. “It’s just all about coming in and doing your job. That’s the easy part about being on good teams. When you’re on teams that are young and rebuilding, you have to give a lot more — a lot more. Like I said, I’m open to winning, and when you’re open to winning, of course you’re going to do whatever it takes to help people. It’s always good to help people and be all incorporated into winning.”
It sounds like a fluid situation between Gordon and the Rockets entering the season. He doesn’t have the same agreement as Wall has with the franchise where he won’t play, which means he’ll certainly still be in the rotation playing with the young guys, something that he’s embracing. But if a trade materializes to send him to a championship-contending team, the 2017 Sixth Man of the Year would be accepting of it as he enters his twilight years in the league.
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Finding a team that will take on the $37.7 million remaining on Gordon’s contract between this season and next will be a difficult task, mainly because of the injuries he’s racked up over the years. He’s only played in 43 percent of Houston’s games in the past two seasons combined, but when he’s healthy he can certainly have a positive impact. In the 2020 playoffs in the Orlando bubble, Gordon averaged 17.3 points, 3.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds while starting in all 12 of the Rockets games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers.
After this past season was cut short due to a knee and groin injury, Gordon was committed to strengthening his body ahead of the upcoming season to avoid any setbacks.
“Well, I did a lot,” Gordon said. “I don’t think I went a week without working out this summer. So I had to really strengthen my body so I could be strong. Along the way, I started working with a track coach, and that really helped me along the way in the summer to where I can not put so much force. I was just overcompensating too much.”
If Gordon’s in tip-top shape and can show he’s still the guy who can average 17 points a night, then it won’t be as difficult to find a trade for the veteran guard. But until then, he remains with the rebuilding Rockets focused on helping his new, young teammates improve.