Before Eric Gordon signed with the Rockets, James Harden told him that he was the missing piece to the team’s puzzle. After a phenomenal last season, Gordon’s telling HollywoodLife.com about his game, the team’s future and his recent trip to China!
Eric Gordon, 28, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year for the 2016-2017 season, took his talents to Taiwan on July 8! The Houston Rocket participated in the second annual NBA 5v5 tournament for elite grassroots players in China and he shared his experience EXCLUSIVELY with HollywoodLife.com. And, Gordon, wasn’t the only NBA star involved in the tournament. His fellow NBA competitors, Milwaukee Bucks’ Khris Middleton, 25, former NBA Finals MVP Paul Pierce, 39, and Utah Jazz’s Ricky Rubio, 26, are also participating in the NBA 5v5 over the course of the summer!
“It’s been great,” he said about his trip, adding, “There were a lot of different events, and traveling to different cities has been fun. I’ve been to a couple cities that I’ve never been to.” Gordon explained that he participated in the league’s five-on-five and three-on-three tournaments. And, he kicked off the tournament in Chengdu [as seen our above photo gallery] on July 8 and 9. I met a lot of fans,” Gordon explained, before he told us about how much fun he had hosting a basketball clinic in Chengdu. He even put up a couple shots in front of excited fans. And, although he was happily consumed with endless basketball activities, Gordon also had time to take in the culture. He indulged in Sichuan hotpot in Chengdu and loved it!
In case you weren’t familiar with the tournaments, we’ve got you covered… thanks to Gordon. This year’s tournament expanded from 16 to 32 teams, which began on July 8. And, for the first time ever, the games featured teams from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Here’s how it worked: NBA China invited eight elite teams to play in each of the regional tournaments in Chengdu, Shenzhen, Nanjing and Beijing. And, each regional champion and runner up will advance to the National Finals in Shanghai, which takes place on September 2 and 3. The teams will compete for the chance to win a total tournament prize of up to RMB 1 million [estimated 147,972 U.S. dollars].
Gordon’s community efforts, as well as his on-court performance have made him an essential part of the NBA and the Rockets. Before joining the team, he was even personally recruited by none other than the beard, James Harden, 27. Although Gordon and Harden have been friends since 2007, — when they played together in McDonald’s All-American game — to be phoned multiple times by Harden in June 2016, to join the Rockets, was a complete honor for Gordon. In a beautifully written piece in The Player’s Tribune, Gordon penned that the Rockets’ recruitment tactics were almost like a coordinated calling attack… just think about the 3-way call ambush in Mean Girls; but, less shade, of course. Anyway, Gordon went on to write that Harden told him that he was the missing piece to their championship puzzle. And, Gordon — who admitted that he was happy the Rockets had called about “fifty times” that summer — eventually signed with the Rockets.
After that, although the Rockets started the season on rough foot [going 6-5], Coach Mike D’Antoni, 66, figured out what the team needed. He took Gordon out of the starting lineup and made him sixth man, a position Gordon only embraced and never fussed about. That is when you know a player truly understands how the game works. And, it was the type of decision only a Coach of the Year would make. D’Antoni went on to win that very award at the 2017 NBA Awards.
With Gordon at sixth man, the Rockets went on to participate in the playoffs. Although they were eventually eliminated by the Spurs in overtime of Game 5 [oh the memories of Manu Ginobili‘s buzzer block on Harden], the Rockets finished with a 55-27 record for the third seed in the Western Conference. And, Gordon played a major role in their success.
After being plagued by a slew of injuries, it was Gordon’s world during the 2016/17 season, and we were all just living in it. The proof that we were all witnesses to his success? — Gordon played in 75 games; he averaged 16.4 points on 37 percent three-point shooting; and, he nailed 246 threes last season, which put him at the fourth-most in the NBA, behind veterans, Steph Curry, 29, Klay Thompson, 27 and Harden. And, that’s what we call a mic drop.
Read our full interview with Gordon below, where he discussed Chris Paul, 32, coming to the Rockets and more.
What does CP3 mean for the Rockets going into next season?
It gives us a different edge because he’s a big time playmaker. Now, you have two heavy playmakers [CP3 and James Harden], and now it’s about us sacrificing to play a well-rounded game by everybody, and more of an efficient game. I think the more efficient those guys are, Chris Paul and James are, the benefit is going to help our team. They’re going to both play a little point guard, so they’re just going to have to jell and being in Mike D’Antoni’s office is going to help.
You’re the first Houston Rocket to ever win Sixth Man of the Year. How did that especially make you feel?
It feels great, because I took on a role that I’ve never done before. Our team did very well this season and I thrived in my role, so I think that that really benefitted everyone.
What would you say separates you from other guys who play your position on other teams?
I’m willing to make a sacrifice and make a big difference in a game, whether I start or come off the bench. It’s all about being productive at any point of the game. But, it’s mainly about sacrifice.
If you ever want to win, and do something bigger than just winning a bunch of games; to win a championship and make the game easier for everyone, you have to sacrifice to make it fun. That’s the major challenge — How can you help everybody be successful and yourself? That’s the key to everything.
Being sixth man does make you versatile because coming in and making an impact in the game is very huge. Usually the guys that come off the bench are either young, or inexperienced or trying to find their way in the league. And, it was different for me, because I was in the league for a while, and I’ve had great years playing. To be on a good team and be in that role, I think it’s pivotal for us to have a good season.
Building on this past season, what do you want to do to improve or work on in the off season to be ready for next year?
I want to continue to be creative with the ball, and doing that a lot more instead of just being a catch and shoot guy. I want to be unstoppable throughout the whole game.
Why do you think your coach, Mike D’Antoni, won Coach of the Year at the 2017 NBA Awards?
Just the attitude he brings to the entire team. Of course he brings a great system, but mostly he brought the attitude that it’s all about winning. He brought a great demeanor; if we lost, or anything that was going on in the locker room, he was able to fix it. He’s a very laid back guy. He’s easy to talk to. And, anything that was going on, he took it away. Of course, he’s been around for a while, and it really helped our team.
Since you, as well as your coach were big winners at the NBA Awards, did you guys have a moment after your names were called?
“Yes we spoke after winning our awards. And, it was fun because it was our first year together. He told me that he wants to see me back up there winning Sixth Man of the Year again, next year. And, of course, it’s going to be harder for him [to win Coach of the Year] after the great year that we just had. But, we just want to continue to keep winning and trying to win a championship. Coach and I just both know that after our first year together, it’s just great for everyone and for us to get awards.”
Do you have any pre/post game rituals?
“Before every game, I have to make 200 shots. I’ve always done it for a long time and I think it’s helped my shooting ability.”
HollywoodLifers, what was your favorite moment from Gordon’s last season?