HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Eric Gordon defensive stopper?
It’s strange, the things playing with the those three important letters — USA –across your chest can make a player do.
Kevin Durant did his usual, starring on the big stage, proving what we all knew before he and his teammates on the U.S. National Team headed t Turkey in search of gold at the 2010 FIBA World Championship, showing that his rise to global superstardom is absolutely on the fast track.
There was nothing surprising about Lamar Odom‘s stellar utility work or Kevin Love‘s rugged rebounding ability or the flinch-free leadership in the most pressure-packed of situations that only a veteran the ilk of Chauncey Billups can provide.
We come to expect certain things from certain players, regardless of the venue or circumstance, based solely on our lengthy history of watching them respond in similar situations.
But it’s the guys like Gordon, the Los Angeles Clippers’ mercurial young guard, that always provide the best surprises in these international competitions.
Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook will make anyone’s short list of the most promising young guards in the NBA. But Gordon, due in large part to the Clippers’ struggles, wouldn’t normally land on that radar.
Watching him work with the USA on his chest, however, served as a grand reminder of just how dynamic a player he could be if used properly — surely the Clippers’ brass saw him this summer and have to be thinking about tweaking his role alongside Baron Davis this season.
Gordon’s shooting range is basically anywhere inside of the half court line, something that’s always been a staple of his game. His work on the defensive end, however, was a revelation. And I’ve been watching Gordon for years, long before he wore the Clippers’ red, white and blue.
I watched Gordon play alongside Rose years ago in Las Vegas, on a travel team the summer before their senior year in high school, when there was still some debate as to which one of the two was the better prospect. Both were outlandish, even then. But Rose projected into a specific position (point guard) while Gordon’s future position was a bit murky. (Even then, they were both unbelievable together … literally unbelievable!)
A lost season at Indiana didn’t help the projections, though the Clippers did have the sense to make him a lottery pick (7th overall in the 2008 draft). Gordon validated his lofty draft position with his play. His first two NBA seasons have been above average, 16.1 points per game as a rookie and 16.9 last season, albeit on a beleaguered Clippers team.
The point is, as solid as Gordon has been to start his NBA career, competitions like the 2010 FIBA World Championship remind us of how much more a young guy like Gordon is capable of, on both ends of the floor. And therein lies one of the truly beautiful things about the selection process for pros conducted USA Basketball honcho Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski. It wasn’t just about snagging the most high-profile names this summer. It was about finding the best fits for this team. And they did a fantastic job.
There were eyebrows raised when Gordon and guys like Steph Curry and Love made the team over some other players. But not here at the hideout. Our expectations for this team were through the roof. And we’re expecting similar big things out of these gold medal-wearing players this season.