NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – NOVEMBER 11: Eric Gordon #10 of the Houston Rockets stands on the court … [+]
On Sunday night, the Houston Rockets got what may be the biggest midseason addition any contending team will make this season in the form of guard Eric Gordon. Gordon had been inactive since November 13, missing the Rockets’ last 22 games following surgery to his right knee. He had played in nine of the team’s first ten games to start the season, averaging just 10.9 points per game on 31% from the field and 28% from ‘3’.
On Sunday night, in his return to action against the New Orleans Pelicans, in a loss, Gordon played 22 minutes, scoring 20 points on 6/12 shooting from the field, and 4/7 on 3’s. He looked quick off the dribble and confident with his shooting, not displaying the rust one would expect from a player who had missed six weeks. The Pelicans put the game away in the fourth quarter against a Rockets team that was missing James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Clint Capela. Gordon was not on the floor in the latter stages of the fourth as the game slipped away.
Gordon’s return to the lineup is the greatest cause for optimism for a Rockets team that found itself sitting in the third seed in the West entering Sunday’s game. The team was just three games out of first place despite playing the majority of the season without the sharpshooting Gordon. Gordon has won a Sixth Man of the Year Award and been a vital cog to the team’s success over the past three seasons.
Entering the weekend, the Rockets’ starting quintet of Harden, Westbrook, Capela, Danuel House Jr., and P.J. Tucker had the best defensive rating (97.3) in the league among all quintets to have played 250 minutes. That unit also had one of the top overall net ratings (+13.4) in the league. With such dominant production from Houston’s starting group, the thinking continues to be that Houston could take off and climb in the standings with a boost to its bench. That boost presumably would be Gordon.
Entering the weekend, the Rockets were 7.5 points per 100 possessions worse with Westbrook on the court than they were with him off. The team was +10.7 with Westbrook off and just +3.2 with him on. They had an offensive rating of 119.0 with Westbrook off and an offensive rating of 109.2 with him on. Adding Gordon to lineups featuring Westbrook would seem to help in this regard by providing the latter more room to operate for drive and kicks. Lineups featuring solely Harden do not appear to be in need of any help offensively.
Gordon’s dreadful start to the season played a contributory role in Houston’s slow start (3-3 to start the year.) Houston’s opening day starting lineup of Westbrook/Harden/Gordon/Capela/Tucker was a -74.2 in 26 minutes of shared court time. Replace Westbrook with House, and the unit was -22.8 in 30 minutes. It soon became clear that Gordon was playing injured once the announcement regarding the surgery was made.
The Rockets hope that after the procedure, Gordon regains the lift that allowed him to space the floor for Harden and Chris Paul for the past two to three seasons. On Sunday night, he looked well on his way back to full strength.