How a heated rivalry made Eric Gordon a Clippers secret weapon

Seeking stability in a season that includes little of it, the Clippers have turned to a participant who wasn’t on the roster till a month in the past.

“I think he gives us a calmness when he is on the floor,” coach Tyronn Lue stated.

Amid a rotation the place taking part in time is consistently present process analysis, the Clippers have wanted little time to embrace the brand new face as a part of the lineups most frequently closing out tight video games.

“It comes down to trust, we trust him with the ball,” All-Star Paul George stated. “He’s going to make the right plays.”

That participant is Eric Gordon, the 34-year-old, 6-foot-3 reserve guard whose 89 fourth-quarter minutes since his Clippers debut Feb. 14 are the group’s second-highest whole in that span, surpassed solely by George’s 104. The Clippers have outscored opponents by 47 factors in these Gordon minutes, a plus/minus that’s not solely a group excessive however the sixth-best fourth-quarter plus/minus within the NBA since Feb. 14.

After 14 third-quarter factors Wednesday towards Golden State, Gordon performed the ultimate six minutes of the fourth quarter to complete off the Clippers’ important, fourth consecutive victory.

“I’ve always been this glue guy, calming sensation to a team where I can go into a game and I can change the game and just different facets and know how to fit in,” Gordon advised The Times. “Every team I’ve been on, good team, bad team, I’ve always been figuring out ways to fit in.”

The Clippers traded for Gordon believing he might present their lineups with this sense of safety. It is a task he feels eminently snug in, given the stakes — even amid the Clippers’ championship aspirations — don’t really feel so weighty after getting performed via basketball seasons surrounded, in truth, by safety.

Before Gordon was a 15-year NBA professional, he was one in every of America’s high recruits, a guard constructed like a security who might will the ball into the ring. His verbal dedication to Illinois brought about pandemonium. So did his determination to again out of his non-binding dedication and swap allegiances to conference-rival Indiana after the Hoosiers employed coach Kelvin Sampson.

Eric Gordon, whereas nonetheless in highschool, is greeted by followers earlier than an Indiana Hoosiers observe in October 2006.

(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

Broadsided by fan backlash after the swap, Gordon spent his senior yr of highschool in Indianapolis accompanied by a private safety guard. When he arrived at Indiana, his safety element was expanded to 2 folks, Gordon recalled Wednesday, saying Illinois followers generally tried to method him whereas he walked the Bloomington campus.

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All of that was noise that reached a crescendo throughout Indiana’s street recreation at Illinois on Feb. 7, 2008.

The announcement of Gordon’s identify throughout pregame bulletins was almost drowned out by boos from an Illini crowd later described by Indiana’s scholar newspaper as “frothing at the mouth with hatred for Gordon.” When Gordon jogged to midcourt for a conventional assembly of starters, Illinois guard Chester Frazier chest-bumped Gordon arduous sufficient to push the Hoosier guard backward a number of steps. Hearing calls of “liar,” Gordon scored only one level within the first half. He would end with 19 in a double-overtime Indiana win — one saved when Gordon’s three-pointer banked in to tie with 25 seconds left in regulation.

Also late within the recreation, ESPN reported on the time, beads had been thrown at a bit of followers that included Gordon’s dad and mom. Gordon recalled Wednesday that for that recreation, 4 safety guards had been employed to guard his dad and mom.

The expertise modified what he thought of to be stress. While being requested to house the ground, defend and complement Clippers stars George and Kawhi Leonard amid a title push carries loads, it’s additionally not fairly the identical as residing via a recreation he took that personally.

“In the NBA you got to fight through adversity all the time, from team to team, whatever situation on the court, it’s all about figuring it out and fighting through adversity,” Gordon advised The Times. “And I learned a lot of that back in high school and college.

“In college, nothing was really going our way. We had a great team, they always wanted to fire the coach, they fired him and our season ended bad — and then the Illinois stuff. It was just good to have that experience.”

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The Clippers are reaping the advantages.

Given his long-range credentials, Gordon’s taking pictures risk could be the first purpose to maintain him in late, however he has shot simply 32% within the fourth as a Clipper, together with simply 4 for 18 on three-point makes an attempt. But Gordon has been reliable in limiting his errors — 15 assists towards solely two turnovers — and located methods to raise the bigger group, together with defensively. When Gordon is on the courtroom in fourth quarters, opponents have made simply 40.9% of their photographs, the second-best mark on the roster. When he’s off, opponents have shot 55%. That hole of 14 share factors is the biggest on-off swing on the group.

To open Wednesday’s second half towards the Warriors, Lue plugged Gordon into the beginning lineup void left by Marcus Morris Sr.’s ejection, and Gordon answered with 4 three-pointers coming from a median of 26 toes within the third quarter — the type of spacing the Clippers crave to drag his defender that a lot farther from the basket, and away from serving to defend stars George and Leonard, too. Gordon reentered within the fourth quarter with the Clippers holding a seven-point lead and performed the ultimate six minutes of an eight-point win.

Clippers guard Eric Gordon, right, shoots in front of Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson.

Clippers guard Eric Gordon, proper, shoots in entrance of Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson throughout a recreation on Feb. 14.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

“Just watching him and playing against him over the years, he just always played his role, whatever the team needed him to do,” Lue stated. “He’s come in and told me the same exact thing, like, ‘Whatever you need me to do, I’m gonna do.’ And he’s fitting in great.”

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Gordon isn’t the one newcomer to inform Lue that message of sacrifice. Gordon’s emergence as a more in-depth has typically sidelined the beginning guard, Russell Westbrook. Yet Westbrook was once more impactful in his 27 minutes, with 15 factors, 9 rebounds, seven assists and no turnovers whereas staying disciplined with what photographs he took towards a protection baiting him to take uncontested leap photographs.

“You think about Russ, you think about relentless,” George stated. “And that was the imprint he put on the game.”

Multiple Clippers pinned the profitable streak, and the elevated consolation of rotation gamers Gordon, Westbrook and Mason Plumlee, who had been all added at or after the Feb. 9 commerce deadline, as the results of extra observe time than traditional throughout the previous week. But that doesn’t clarify fully the turnaround, Gordon stated. Two weeks after postgame feedback following a loss towards Golden State wherein he positioned the accountability of a late-season rebound on the gamers, Gordon stood within the locker room late Wednesday and stated a change in mindset had allowed it to change into actuality.

George, too, echoed that now, “we’re playing for one another and we expect to win — that was the big difference.”

And they’ve felt a distinction with Gordon’s calm within the clutch.

“I’m never afraid of taking a tough shot at the end of the game because there are going to be many more moments in the game in the playoffs or whatnot you’ve just got to be ready to knock down those,” he stated.

In just one month with the Clippers, Gordon has already seen the toll of a five-game shedding streak and the rejuvenation of a four-game profitable streak. He retains it in perspective. He has performed via worse.