Eric Gordon has been one of the best sixth men in basketball this year for the Houston Rockets, and it all started with James Harden calling him every day.
It’s no secret that the Houston Rockets appreciate James Harden. All year, his teammates have vocalized their admiration of him, from trusting his late-game decisions to unashamedly advocating him for MVP. The latest installment of Houston’s roster praising the Beard came in the form of a piece Eric Gordon wrote for The Players’ Tribune.
In the article, Gordon discussed his switch from starter to sixth man and how he handled that transition. He opened up about what it’s like playing with Harden, noting how easy it is for him to get open shots when they share the floor. The primary purpose of his writing, though, was to talk about James Harden’s intense recruiting techniques.
Starting in early June, according to Gordon, Harden and Trevor Ariza began calling him on a daily basis, trying to convince him to sign with the Rockets.
"It was like a coordinated attack. I was like, Wow, these guys aren’t messing around. Trevor told me how much I’d benefit from the team’s training program — swearing that I’d feel like I was 10 years younger…They talked my ear off. They threw around words like “playoffs” and “championships.” They told me that we’d be unstoppable on offense, that we’d put up historic numbers. That the Rockets’ game —always moving the ball to the open guy —would be a fun game."
The technique eventually paid off for Harden and Ariza. On the second day of free agency, E.G. signed a four-year, $53 million contract with the Houston Rockets. He followed suit after his teammate in New Orleans, Ryan Anderson, inked with Houston hours before.
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The signings brought on immediate skepticism, pundits harping on Gordon’s and Anderson’s lack of defense and history of injuries. Neither player had ever been fully healthy for a season, and both seemed to be aging quickly.
However, the incoming duo ended up being huge for the Rockets this season. Ryno lit it up from three, shooting over 40% from deep as the team’s starting power forward. Eric, in a new sixth man role, played one of the best seasons of his career in 2016-17. He averaged over 16 points per game coming off the bench, acting both as a shot creator and a spot up marksman.
Gordon finished his The Players’ Tribune piece by mentioning how glad he was that signed with Houston. It was a risk to sign up to play the type of game the Rockets play, but it proved to be more than worth it for both parties.
Clearly, James Harden knows what he’s looking for in a recruit (he also helped to get Lou Williams excited about coming to Houston in February). Not only that, but he’s willing to put in the work to make things happen.
There are several players entering free agency this summer would make a great fit in Houston. He shouldn’t worry too much before the season ends, but I hope the Beard’s got a few guys’ number on speed dial.
For now, James Harden and the rest of the gang are preparing for the second round of the playoffs. They’ll take on either the Spurs or Grizzlies, either of which would be a tough matchup.