It comes as no surprise, but the New Orleans Hornets have matched the Suns’ $58 million offer to Eric Gordon. ESPN’s Marc Stein was the first to break the news.
While many in Phoenix were hopeful that the Hornets might let Gordon walk, New Orleans was adamant from the outset that it intended to match any offer Gordon received. The Hornets also rebuffed the idea of a sign-and-trade from the Suns.
“While we are disappointed that Eric will not be a Sun at this time, we have no regrets in doing all that we could under the rules to bring him to Phoenix,” Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby said in a statement. “Once Eric passes his physical in New Orleans, our full cap room will be restored and we will move forward in free agency. In the meantime, we are on track to pursue our plans.”
This announcement is disappointing for the Suns, who were looking to land Gordon as both a 20-plus point per game scorer and the de facto “face of the franchise” in the wake of Steve Nash’s departure to Los Angeles. This news is also disappointing for Gordon himself as he has expressed publicly many times that his unqualified desire was to play in Phoenix.
However, Gordon predictably took back much of that venom today in a statement released by the team.
“There is always a business element to the NBA when dealing with contracts, but I never lost my appreciation for the New Orleans fans,” Gordon said. “I look forward to giving my very best on the court this season to make our team successful.”
The Hornets followed up on their commitment to keep Gordon, and clearly new owner Tom Benson wants the team to win now. The Hornets’ roster still needs some work in my opinion. Gordon is a talented scorer, but pairing him with Austin Rivers does not a great backcourt make. In the same way, Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson seem like an odd frontcourt pairing as neither is a true center. But I’ll let the guys at Hornets247 extol the virtue, or lack their of, of the Hornets’ roster. Back to Phoenix.
With Gordon out of the picture, the Suns will turn their eyes to O.J. Mayo. The 24 year-old shooting guard visited the team yesterday, and it’s likely his phone (or his agent’s phone) will be ringing again today. To ask whether or not Mayo is the best guy for the Suns to pursue is to miss the point a little bit. Phoenix needs an experienced shooting guard and the market for those is drying up quickly.
Jerryd Bayless was a possible target, but he signed with the Grizzlies. Another option is Courtney Lee, but I personally like Mayo a great deal more. O.J. seems to me like a player who needs a change of scenery after playing four seasons in Memphis. Mayo averaged 18 points per game while starting every game but one in the first two years of his career. He has started only 17 games since then and his scoring has dropped off considerably. It’s possible that Mayo was miscast as an off the bench scorer by Memphis. If Alvin Gentry gives Mayo a chance to start, he could be very productive as a Sun.
On other fronts, Phoenix will now be able to officially sign Goran Dragic and Michael Beasley to the contracts the two sides agreed upon. Both players agreed to wait until the Eric Gordon situation was settled before signing so the Suns could hang on to some other players like Robin Lopez and not have to make an amnesty move.
Now that Gordon won’t be joining the team, the Suns have about $11 million left in cap space. It is understood that the front office intends to spend that money on Mayo (or another FA shooting guard) and Lopez. Due to some financial rules, the Suns may have to renounce Lopez’s Bird rights before signing the shooting guard.
For now, the Suns can avoid using the amnesty clause on any of their players. However, if a promising free agent situation or trade were to present itself in the next week, the front office won’t hesitate to clear cap room by whatever means necessary. For Josh Childress, the end of the Eric Gordon saga means a sigh of relief, but by no means will this be the end of amnesty speculation surrounding him.
Though Phoenix didn’t acquire Gordon, its pursuit of him shows an initiative on the part of the front office that fans and media members must salute. The Suns took their shot at an instant reboot. Unfortunately for them they missed, but taking that shot is still significant. Now the front office must stay true to its word and preserve its cap space until another player like Gordon becomes available via free agency or trade.
What no one wants to happen is a repeat of the offseason after Amare’s departure when Childress, Hakim Warrick, and Channing Frye were signed to multi-year deals that seemed questionable at the time and potentially crippling now. Beasley and Dragic are good pieces, but the cap space must be preserved for a great player, not simply a collection of good ones. If the cap space is wasted, the next few seasons might go from the post-Nash era to the post-Nash hangover. No one wants that.