This latest piece was supposed to be on Jameer Nelson. On how it was right to let him go now so he could have a fair crack at free agency, even though this team just lost a veteran in Arron Afflalo before the draft. This team doesn’t have that many veterans either. But the future waits for nobody, and word came through yesterday that the Orlando Magic had brought 10-year veteran Ben Gordon on board. Honestly, it’s a little confusing.
We knew the Magic would make moves during free agency, and for sure they aren’t done yet. But this first move is a little puzzling. On one hand, the team lost Afflalo and Nelson, the two locker room leaders, so bringing in another veteran makes sense. At $9 million over two seasons, the second of which is a team option, Gordon is a cheaper alternative to the previous two players. But he’s also not as good, and injury is the reason for this.
Yes, this is not a gamble by any stretch, and if he’s healthy Gordon could provide a nifty pickup. It’s just not the move many fans saw coming as their first dive into the free agency pool. We know a lot of players don’t see Orlando as being an attractive destination yet and the roster is still a little too raw to be intriguing. But on the other hand, is this as good as it will get?
Again, not a knock on Gordon, more the direction of the franchise. Gordon will play backup to rising star Victor Oladipo, and off the bench he will provide the scoring spark this team so desperately needs. He’s a 40.2 percent three-point shooter for his career so far, and he was also the Sixth Man of the Year in 2004-2005. This points towards a player who already knows his role on this team, and will be able to fit seamlessly into it.
Gordon has spoken of his desire to win a championship before he retires though, and if that is still the case, he is in the wrong place. At 31 years old, Orlando will not contend for a title while he is an active player in this league, and you have to hope he is ok with picking up his paycheck and contributing to a budding team. Locker room discontent is not what this franchise needs, not when it feels it is on the cusp of creating something special.
More of a worry is Gordon’s health going forward. He played in only 19 regular season games for the Charlotte Bobcats last season, 14 of which came in December. He averaged less than 15 minutes a game in that spell as well. It’s a good thing the Magic can back out of this arrangement after a year, because those are not promising signs. As stated though it’s pretty low risk stuff bringing him in, so why not give it a try? The Magic have obviously seen something they liked and there were rumors other teams were interested in his services as well.
As for the direction of the organization, that’s a little trickier. It isn’t 2004 anymore and the casual fan probably doesn’t know who this guy is. Kicking out Afflalo and Nelson, two absolute fan favorites (and in Nelson’s case, the all-time appearance maker for the franchise), and bringing in this guy won’t be filling the fans with confidence. Remember, the fans in Orlando expect to see some sort of push away from the bottom of the standings next season, and signings like Gordon won’t do a lot to change that.
Basically, Magic fans have to hope that this is not it. In the grand scheme of things, it could be a valuable little pickup, a guy who mentors Oladipo somewhat and provides offense off the bench. This scenario also includes the incoming talents of some more well known players though, and although it is early days, there have been few substantial rumors to hold onto for dear life and hope they come to fruition.
Welcome to the Orlando Magic Ben Gordon, we’re happy to have you. With the greatest of respect though, we’re not looking for just you this summer, because this team needs a lot more than that if they hope to be in the playoff mix. Dare we say some fans are beginning to question the direction general manager Rob Hennigan is going in here?