NEW ORLEANS — Eric Gordon threw his hands up in disbelief.
The ball, in his mind, most certainly did not go off him before trailing off out of bounds with less than 6 seconds to play Friday night and his Hornets in need of a clutch play by its franchise player.
Indeed, after a video review, the officials decided the ball did, in fact, go off of Gordon.
And that was just one of the critical plays Gordon didn’t make in the second half of New Orleans’ heart-thumping, gut-punching last-second 104-100 loss to Dallas.
In one full 48-minute ballgame, Gordon provided glimpses of why some are so high on him. He also showed why so many people aren’t.
He went from first-half baller to second-half flameout.
It’s undeniable that Gordon has the talent to be one of the NBA’s best players. He gets to the rim like few others. He can have a smooth delivery on long-range shots. And he sees the floor in a way that can’t be taught, deftly delivering passes to teammates in positions that just don’t seem natural.
But if a franchise is going to unload $58 million into your bank account, you can’t just be a first 24 minutes kind of a guy.
You can’t go long stretches of games without contributing.
You’ve got to play through pain when maybe it doesn’t behoove you.
And you’ve got to be able to make a difference in the clutch when your team is counting on you most.
In the first half against Dallas, Gordon was Super Gordon. He bounded through the lane at will. He got to the free-throw line without trouble. He set up his teammates for easy buckets.
As Dallas reserve guard Vince Carter said, Gordon abused the Mavericks.
In the final 24 minutes, he was the one getting abused. He couldn’t get to the basket. He couldn’t get to the free-throw line and he couldn’t get the ball inbounds cleanly.
This is just another layer on top of Gordon’s already less-than-sterling reputation with Hornets fans. His penchant to miss games – he’s on a strict sit-on-the-bench-and-not-contribute-in-the-second-game-of-back-to-backs diet – isn’t wedding himself to a fan base starving for a breakout player.
Fans, though, aren’t the only ones who don’t seem to trust Gordon.
As the trade deadline passed on Thursday with Gordon staying put, reports surfaced that other teams were wary of his injury-riddled past.
That’s not a surprise. Since Gordon has been in New Orleans, he has played in only 29 games out of a total 122 games. For the mathematically disinclined, that’s 23.7 percent of possible games.
Friday night, though, is another reason other teams should give pause to their possible pursuit of the pouty player.
Gordon had all four of his turnovers in the second half and only three points. When the team needed him the most, he wasn’t there.
The Hornets just needed him to catch the ball on an inbounds pass with five seconds to play.
He didn’t deliver.
In his time in New Orleans, he hasn’t yet.