How a heated rivalry made Eric Gordon a Clippers secret weapon

Searching for 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 feel he offers us a calmness when he’s on the ground,” coach Tyronn Lue mentioned.Amid a rotation the place taking part in time is continually 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 right down to belief, we belief him with the ball,” All-Star Paul George mentioned. “He’s going to make the precise performs.”That participant is Eric Gordon, the 34-year-old, 6-foot-3 reserve guard whose 89 fourth-quarter minutes since his Clippers season debut Feb. 14 are the staff’s second-highest complete 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 staff excessive however the sixth-best fourth-quarter plus/minus within the NBA since Feb. 14.After 14 third-quarter factors Wednesday in opposition to Golden State, Gordon performed the ultimate six minutes of the fourth quarter to complete off the Clippers’ very important, fourth consecutive victory.“I’ve all the time been this glue man, calming sensation to a staff the place I can go right into a sport and I can change the sport and simply completely different aspects and know the way to slot in,” Gordon informed The Los Angeles Occasions. “Each staff I’ve been on, good staff, unhealthy staff, I’ve all the time been determining methods to slot in.”The Clippers traded for Gordon believing he may present their lineups with this sense of safety. It’s a function he feels eminently comfy in, given the stakes — even amid the Clippers’ championship aspirations — don’t really feel so weighty upon getting performed by way of basketball seasons surrounded, in actual fact, by safety.Earlier than Gordon was a 15-year NBA professional, he was one in every of America’s prime recruits, a guard constructed like a security who may will the ball into the ring. His verbal dedication to Illinois brought on pandemonium. So did his choice to again out of his non-binding dedication and change 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 follow in October 2006.(Darron Cummings / Related Press) Broadsided by fan backlash after the change, 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. All of that was noise that reached a crescendo throughout Indiana’s highway sport at Illinois on Feb. 7, 2008.The announcement of Gordon’s title pregame was practically drowned out by boos from an Illini crowd later described by Indiana’s pupil newspaper as “frothing on the mouth with hatred for Gordon.” When Gordon jogged to midcourt for a standard assembly of starters, Illinois guard Chester Frazier chest-bumped Gordon arduous sufficient to push the Hoosier guard backward a number of steps. Listening to 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.Additionally late within the sport, 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 sport, 4 safety guards had been employed to guard his dad and mom.The expertise modified what he thought of to be strain. Whereas being requested to house the ground, defend and complement Clippers stars George and Kawhi Leonard amid a title push carries a lot, it’s additionally not fairly the identical as residing by way of a sport he took that personally.“Within the NBA you bought to battle by way of adversity on a regular basis, from staff to staff, no matter scenario on the court docket, it’s all about figuring it out and preventing by way of adversity,” Gordon informed The Occasions. “And I discovered quite a lot of that again in highschool and school.“In school, nothing was actually going our means. We had an important staff, they all the time wished to fireside the coach, they fired him and our season ended unhealthy — after which the Illinois stuff. It was simply good to have that have.”The Clippers are reaping the advantages in Gordon’s second stint with the staff.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. However Gordon has been reliable in limiting his errors — 15 assists in opposition to solely two turnovers — and located methods to raise the bigger group, together with defensively. When Gordon is on the court docket 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 proportion factors is the most important on-off swing on the staff.To open Wednesday’s second half in opposition to 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 ft within the third quarter — the form of spacing the Clippers crave to tug 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, proper, shoots in entrance of Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson throughout a sport on Feb. 14.(Mark J. Terrill / Related Press) “Simply watching him and taking part in in opposition to him over time, he simply all the time performed his function, regardless of the staff wanted him to do,” Lue mentioned. “He’s are available and informed me the identical actual factor, like, ‘No matter you want me to do, I’m gonna do.’ And he’s becoming in nice.”Gordon isn’t the one newcomer to inform Lue that message of sacrifice. Gordon’s emergence as a better has typically sidelined the beginning guard, Russell Westbrook. But 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 in opposition to a protection baiting him to take uncontested bounce photographs.“You consider Russ, you consider relentless,” George mentioned. “And that was the imprint he placed on the sport.”A number of Clippers pinned the successful 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 follow time than regular throughout the previous week. However that doesn’t clarify solely the turnaround, Gordon mentioned. Two weeks after postgame feedback following a loss in opposition to Golden State wherein he positioned the accountability of a late-season rebound on the gamers, Gordon stood within the locker room late Wednesday and mentioned a change in mindset had allowed it to change into actuality.George, too, echoed that now, “we’re taking part in for each other and we count on to win — that was the large distinction.”And so they have felt a distinction with Gordon’s calm within the clutch.“I’m by no means afraid of taking a tricky shot on the finish of the sport as a result of there are going to be many extra moments within the sport within the playoffs or whatnot you’ve simply bought to be able to knock down these,” he mentioned.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 successful streak. He retains it in perspective. He has performed by way of worse.