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A shooting guard is back in the UC
by Sam Smith
Posted on Jan 10
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It’s nothing special anymore, Ben Gordon back in the United Center, one of the best shooting guards in franchise history.
“I have a lot of good memories here,” Gordon was saying before Monday’s game. “Even though the fans boo me now.”
Reporters probably miss Gordon as much as any former Bull given he’s always one of the most accessible, friendly and revealing of NBA players, certainly among former Bulls.
Which is why we all feel more for Gordon than just another guy who comes through.
Gordon left the Bulls as a free agent, somewhat reluctantly, after the 2008-09 season, after leading the team in scoring for the fourth straight season, after combining with then rookie Derrick Rose to almost pull the huge upset of the defending champion Boston Celtics in arguably the best playoff series ever, the seven-game, overtime packed thriller.
Gordon is a particularly prideful man, and it clearly bothered him, though he never quite said it that way, that the Bulls, effectively, chose Luol Deng over him. Gordon had a chance to sign a $50 million extension in the 2007-08 season and $54 million a year later, though for a year longer.
But he never could seem to quite get past that the Bulls paid Deng more, initially a $57 million offer to Ben’s $50 million, and then eventually about $70 million, though far less in cash given so much of the contract was deferred.
So when Detroit came calling befre last season with a spectacularly huge contract of close to $60 million for five years Gordon couldn’t say no. Did he want to? He never really said. But the Bulls had pulled back their offer as they were making their strategy the summer of 2010 free agency.
So had the Bulls gotten, say, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, there would be no debate.
But after signing Carlos Boozer, there were no other so called “max” players available as Joe Johnson had resigned with Atlanta, and Gordon maybe wasn’t looking that bad.
A classic perimeter bomber to play off Derrick Rose? Not bad.
The Bulls ended up dividing their free agent money among several players, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Keith Bogans and Kurt Thomas.
And so Bogans continues to start at shooting guard and the Bulls continue, or so the reports go, look for a shooting guard.
Gordon is aware of the irony, but also aware that perhaps the grass isn’t always greener. He’s averaging just 11.8 points per game and playing fewer than 30 minutes per game. With an excess of perimeter players, Gordon’s time has varied. He starts now but often doesn’t finish.
Things might clear some as Richard Hamilton is expected to be included if there is a major Carmelo Anthony trade and Hamilton could end up being reunited with Chauncey Billups in New Jersey. Hamilton has told friends on the Pistons it’s time to move on and he’s ready.
Though you have to wonder if Gordon regrets that it was his time to move on from the Bulls, and another one of those what ifs.
“It’s funny to see the rumors (of the Bulls looking for a shooting guard),” said Gordon. “I don’t know if they are trying..looking for someone in that spot. I guess it’s just how it works out.
“It’s been tough for everybody here, especially me,” said Gordon of the 12-24 Pistons and frequently changing lineups. “It’s just one of those years. I’ve got to continue to try to find ways to work through it. That’s pretty much my approach.”
Gordon said the team has heard all the trade rumors of late, especially involving Hamilton. If Hamilton goes, it will open up more time, presumably, for Gordon.
“It’s part of the business,” said Gordon. “Right now we probably do need a change. We’re not playing to our potential as a team.
“I’ve definitely been a little confused at times (of my role),” Gordon said. “I guess I’ve got to get used to playing when things are not that certain. It’s an adjustment I have to make and it’s something I have to get used to.”
You clearly get the sense Gordon knows he made a mistake, though he does get paid at least $10 million more than he would have made with the Bulls. But can money buy happiness? Maybe, but not playing time.
And you always got the sense Gordon was a competitor. There wasn’t a city we’d get to on the road Gordon didn’t go looking for a gym immediately to shoot.
You can always consider the what ifs.
If Eddy Curry hadn’t developed that heart condition late in the 2004-05 season, the Bulls would have signed him to long term extension. That apparently would not have worked out well, for example.
Likely, the Bulls would have had to let Gordon go as they did with Kirk Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas to be a player in 2010 free agency, so the whole question may be moot.
But even with his defensive deficiencies, Gordon might look pretty good now playing alongside Rose in a pretty high powered Bulls backcourt. And Gordon might like his basketball life a lot better playing where he is popular for a successful team where he’d be making a difference.
But as Gordon says, it’s one of those things in the NBA, the usual it is what it is and move on. Gordon and the Bulls have and there’s no turning back.