There was a time when Ben Gordon struck fear into opponents’ hearts.
He won Sixth Man of the Year in 2005. He was stellar in the 2009 Playoffs, averaging 24.3 points per game and 37.0 percent shooting from beyond the arc. In that crazy series, Gordon fed it with big shot after big shot for the Bulls. There had to be a few Magic fans afraid of seeing this strange compound of a young Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah with this X-factor off the bench in Gordon.
He parlayed that 2009 Playoff role to the five-year, $58 million deal with the Pistons he just completed.
Those last five years were an unmitigated disaster though. With the Pistons and the Bobcats, Gordon averaged 11.6 points per game on 48.6 percent effective field goal percentage. His scoring average immediately sank before cratering last year at 5.2 points per game in 19 games.
That downfall does not really seem like it would allow a two-year $9 million deal. That kind of money suggests the Magic will be relying on Gordon a bit this season — by all accounts, he will. The Magic are willing to give him that second chance.
“I’m really excited,” Ben Gordon said when he was introduced to the media on the final day of Summer League in July. “This is going to be my 11th year in the league. I’ve been around for a while. Every time you get a new opportunity, it’s a great opportunity. I’m looking forward to revitalizing myself, come here and assist the young guys. I think they got a lot of great young talent, and I they need some veteran guys around to help them along the way. I’m looking to come in and contribute and just looking forward to a great opportunity.”
Opportunity. That is all a player can ask for.
Gordon had to think that opportunity might not come. He had so much baggage with him and the league seemed to have passed his style of play on. The league began treasuring efficiency and that left Gordon without much of a home anywhere. He did not live up to his big contract and did not fit back into his previous role with the Bulls.
So now, Gordon is on to a new role. A new phase of his career. Maybe the last legs of his career.
Gordon seemed to realize that when he came through Orlando earlier in the summer. He worked out for Orlando and received a vote of confidence from Magic front office guys who had previously worked with him — Scott Perry and Matt Lloyd. They vouched for him and Rob Hennigan went for it in a high-priced, but low-risk acquisition for the veteran shooting guard.
Rob Hennigan said in their meetings with Gordon, Gordon made it clear he wants to re-establish himself and that he feels he can fit into this franchise and what it wants to accomplish this year.
“It has been tough knowing you can contribute more or do more out there on the court and not seeing that actually materialize,” Gordon said. “But being around for 10 years, the league is always about being in a system where you can flourish. I think the opportunity here, from what I’ve been talking with Coach [Jacque] Vaughn about and some of the other executives, the way we are going to play, I think this is a good opportunity for me to flourish and help the team be successful.”
Gordon certainly will be looked on as a veteran leader. He said the coaching staff told him they want him to provide that and be a shooter as well — something that has suddenly tapered off in recent years for Gordon. Orlando was in desperate need of offense and that is what Gordon has always done in his career.
Now he has to regain his form and be something of a veteran leader for this team.
It will not be easy. Opportunity is only what you make of it.
“I think I’m still able to shoot the ball really well,” Gordon said. “With this team, obviously we don’t know what our roles are going to be yet, but I can still shoot the basketball. That’s something that never gets old in the NBA.
“I don’t feel much pressure. Every situation is different. You just want to come out, work hard and train hard and let the chips fall where they may. I look at this situation as an opportunity to revitalize myself and I’ve been working on my game. I’m looking forward to it.”