Monty Williams is sure of one thing – the future is bright for Eric Gordon.
The much-maligned shooting guard has spent much of his season trying to re-find the touch and clutch play that made New Orleans sign him up for a max contract.
But Williams believes much of Gordon’s struggles late in games this season stem from his right knee injury, one which caused him to miss nearly the first quarter of the season while rehabbing out in California.
“That’s usually how it goes with these guys coming off surgery and rehab,” Williams said Tuesday. “This is the most he’s played in like two and a half years. I look for him to break out next year and have one of those seasons where everybody’s like, ‘OK, that’s what we’re talking about (in terms of Gordon’s ability).’ ”
In 24 games this season, Gordon is averaging 16.8 points per game, more than a point below his career average. However, he’s playing more than five fewer minutes per game.
Still, Gordon came to New Orleans in the Chris Paul trade as the player who could make things happen in tight situations, the guy who could put the Hornets over the top in close games.
That hasn’t happened and since the All-Star break, including in Monday night’s crippling 105-102 loss to Orlando, Gordon disappeared in the second half, going just 2 of 6 for only five points.
Tuesday, Gordon said he and Williams talked about changing that.
“Coach and I talked about it today and he said he’s going to put the ball in my hands in late-game situations more,” Gordon said. “I have got to accept that role and do things that I’m capable of have shown.”
Since the All-Star break, Gordon has failed to convert in the second halves of games. In six games, Gordon is just 10 of 41 in the final 24 minutes of games.
Greivis Vasquez, meanwhile, has turned into the Hornets’ go-to player down the stretch. He has answered, shooting better than 37 percent in the second halves of games since Feb. 19.
The Hornets, obviously, would like for Gordon to better than he has been.
“He’s had some open looks, but for whatever reason, the ball hasn’t gone down for him the way it did last year in clutch situations.,” Williams said.” He’ll knock those shots down. It’s tough.”
Gordon is on a minute restriction this season – “It’s all about being precautionary and that’s the main thing,” he said – and also isn’t playing in the second games of back-to-backs.
He has missed 37 games this season because of a balky knee that appeared to get better this summer after surgery before going bad again once training camp started. He spent nearly six weeks off to begin the season, relocating to California where the team said at the time he would undergo “a more personalized and intensive rehab regimen.”
Tuesday, Gordon said the knee is getting better.
“I think it’s a little bit of confidence,” Gordon said. “I test it out and rehab it every day. It’s all mind and body and I have to put it all together.”
He realizes he has a long way to go and that the 2012-13 season hasn’t been a glorious one for him.
“This is definitely not one of the better years of my career for sure, missing the first three months of the season and now trying to come back and show myself and the fans that I’m capable of being a big-time playmaker and a 20-point scorer every night,” Gordon said.