Lewis: In time, Eric Gordon can win over New Orleans Hornets fans

Associated Press photo by BILL HABERHornets shooting guard Eric Gordon is introduced before a game in New Orleans on Jan. 7. Gordon, a subject of trade rumors as the NBA's Thursday deadline approached, remained with the club. The Hornets face the Mavericks on Friday in New Orleans Arena.
Associated Press photo by BILL HABERHornets shooting guard Eric Gordon is introduced before a game in New Orleans on Jan. 7. Gordon, a subject of trade rumors as the NBA's Thursday deadline approached, remained with the club. The Hornets face the Mavericks on Friday in New Orleans Arena.

By TED LEWIS

Advocate sportswriter

As the sales clerk for the principal jersey display at the Bee Hive in New Orleans Arena, Justin Moore is in position to judge who’s the most popular — or unpopular — Hornets player.

And Moore acknowledges that before Eric Gordon’s delayed season debut Dec. 29, a few customers wondered why Gordon’s No. 10 was even on display alongside those of Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers.

“They said we should take them down until he’s proven he’s worth his contract,” Moore said. “I told them they should give the man a chance.”

They are.

In team introductions before Wednesday’s game against Houston, the volume of cheers for Gordon was only slightly behind those for Davis.

Certainly there were no boos, as were heard when Gordon made his home debut Jan. 1 against Atlanta after missing the season’s first 29 games with knee soreness.

Some suspected Gordon was malingering because the Hornets had matched the four-year, $58 million offer sheet he signed with Phoenix last summer. Being the chief return the Hornets got for Chris Paul didn’t exactly help Gordon’s
Q Rating either.

The team was wary about the reception Gordon would get. Before his return, his image was removed from the pregame video presentation. And it has been suggested that Gordon’s debut was delayed from the Dec. 28 home game against Toronto to the following night at Charlotte so it wouldn’t come in New Orleans.

Now, though, even after Gordon’s worst game as a Hornet — five points on 2-of-12 shooting in Wednesday’s 88-79 victory — the fans are doing exactly what Moore suggested: giving him a chance.

“He’s earning his way back,” said Norm Spurlock of Kenner. “He had it rough tonight, but he changes everything about the team on the court. I’m still worried about his heart long-term. But in the short term, he’s been what we need, so we’ll see.”

Of course, winning always helps overcome the strongest skepticism. And the Hornets are doing that.

Wednesday’s victory in a game the Hornets trailed by 10 points entering the fourth quarter was their third straight, the first time that has happened since April — which just happened to be when Gordon was playing instead of missing 73 of 82 games, primarily because of injury.

Plus, the Hornets got to double-digit victories with a sweep of Southwest Division foes Dallas and San Antonio plus the Rockets, the first time they’ve accomplished that since joining the division in 2003-04.

While Gordon can’t be credited with making a major contribution to Wednesday’s victory, he had 14 points with four assists in the Dallas game and a team-high 24 points against the Spurs. He also had 24 points and seven assists in his debut against the Bobcats, making the Hornets 4-1 in games in which he has appeared.

“Eric Gordon’s a big-time player,” Hornets fan Brent Koplitz said. “That’s why we signed him. With his record of injury, he’s got to come out and establish himself. But he’s going to do that.”

On Wednesday, Gordon said he appreciated his growing fan support.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “It’s made things a lot easier for me. This has been a fun week for sure. We plan on keeping it going.”