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Bright spot: Gordon shines for woeful Clippers

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

By SOLANGE REYNER

Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES -- Suns coach Alvin Gentry called him the best new talent in the league. Golden State's Stephen Jackson said he's a future franchise player.

Eric Gordon has made quite the impression during his rookie season with the Los Angeles Clippers, even if the gifted guard isn't really interested in the limelight.

"I just try to prove something every game -- that I can play," Gordon said Tuesday.

The rest of the NBA is slowly getting the picture.

Gordon scored 27 points, making six of seven 3-pointers, to lead the Clippers to a 118-105 victory over the Warriors on Monday night. He has scored at least 21 in each of his last five games to raise his average to 15.3 for the season.

Gordon earned NBA rookie of the month honors for January, leading all first-year players in points (21.9 average) and minutes (41.1 average). The highlight of the month was a 41-point performance against Oklahoma City, a franchise rookie record and the highest total for any rookie this season.

"He's had some big games where teams certainly have taken notice but I think the thing that impresses most people is his motor, the way he plays every night," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "He can get to the bucket or he can bang out 3s."

Gordon's big game against the Warriors helped the Clippers end a three-game skid and got Jackson's attention.

"He has a knack for hitting the big shots and you can't teach that," Jackson said. "That kid is going to be very good.

"He's one of the guys they're going to keep around and help turn this franchise into a winner. The good thing about him is he's more mature than these (other) rookies."

Gordon is admittedly quiet. He bought a Range Rover and a town home after the Clippers selected him with the seventh pick in last year's draft, but stayed away from any other big purchases.

"I like cars, but I don't really get into too much jewelry," Gordon said.

Eric Gordon Sr. said his son has always been that way.

"He likes his casual dress clothes, too," Gordon Sr. said, in a phone interview from Indianapolis. "He used to have these clothes that were a little larger but all of a sudden I saw him for the first time before a game, and this dude had nice threads on and the clothes were nicely stitched."

Gordon's smooth transition to the NBA is in sharp contrast to the process that led him to Indiana for college. He orally committed to Illinois before backing out to play for the Hoosiers, leading to an ugly trip to Champaign during his only season with IU.

The 6-foot-3 Gordon led the Big Ten in scoring (20.9 points), set school and Big Ten freshman scoring records with 669 points, and made the third-most free throws by a Hoosier in a single season (231).

But Indiana's 25-8 season was marred by Kelvin Sampson's midseason resignation, the promotion of Dan Dakich to interim coach and three player suspensions.

"A lot of different things affected the team last year," Gordon Sr. said. "I think coach Sampson was the only guy who could control those kids. And when he wasn't around, kids weren't going to class and were just hanging around."

Gordon told The Indianapolis Star it was a "well-known fact" that some players were using drugs, and their use created a rift on the team. Some players wanted to protest Sampson's ouster, but Gordon stuck around and went to practice.

"Our team was split up in many different ways," he said. "But that entire experience prepared me to take on anything. I just know how to take it how it is -- coaching change and players getting in trouble -- a lot of those things happen in the NBA so I'm ready for it."

The silky playmaker is putting together quite the rookie year off the court, too. He started the Eric Gordon Foundation in Indiana with his father and is working with the Indiana Board of Health to set up flu shots for the elderly and HPV vaccines for young girls.

So while the Clippers muddle through another difficult year, they have at least one bright spot in place. The losses and a rash of injuries have led to more playing time for Gordon, who is making the most of his opportunity.

"He's got a good head on his shoulders and we keep pushing to get through this," Dunleavy said. "If we were playing with our team on a nightly basis and this was our record, then I think he would be tested character-wise. But I think our guys understand that we do have an upside."



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