The dependable NBA role player has often prided himself on keeping his composure both through success and heartbreak. This time, though, Eric Gordon couldn’t hide his smile and excitement.
He’s only two months removed from leading the Bahamian national team to a win over Argentina in the FIBA World Cup to advance to next year’s Olympic qualifiers. He’s only three months removed from signing with the Phoenix Suns in hopes of winning his first NBA championship.
Gordon spoke to Sportskeeda about those topics, his aspirations to win the NBA’s 6th Man of the Year for the second time in his career, and more.
Editor’s note: The following one-on-one conversation has been condensed and edited
Where do you rank what you did with the Bahamas out of all of your accomplishments?
Gordon: “It’s up there because that is something they had never done, or even came close to doing. It was a step in the right direction. It’s up there.”
Where do you think the Bahamian team can go from here?
Gordon: “I want to go to the Olympics. I want to help them have a chance to get to the Olympics. I think we’ll only improve from here on out. We can make it to the Olympics. We have a good enough team. We just have to get everybody to play. I think it’ll happen next summer.”
What did you think of some Argentinian players complaining that it wasn’t fair that you could play with the Bahamas considering you played for Team USA before [in the 2010 FIBA World Championship?]
Gordon: “I always had a Bahamian passport, so I’ve always been Bahamian. My family is Bahamian. So, it’s not like this is something new. I did win a gold medal with the U.S. [in 2010], but [FIBA] changed the rules. So it worked out for me to be with the Bahamas.”
Mychal Thompson told me he’s not sure if Klay winds up getting selected to play for Team USA or if he plays for the Bahamas. Will you all try to convince Klay to play for the Bahamas?
Gordon: (smiles) “We’ll see. He knows he has a tough decision to make. It can go either way. But I’ll take our chances.”
Do you have any read on that, or too early?
Gordon: “It’s too early to know. But he knows the direction we’re at. I think he sees how meaningful it is for the Bahamas.”
Besides the obvious with the Suns having Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal, what other factors led to you choosing the Suns over other free-agency options?
Gordon: “I really feel like we’re onto something special in Phoenix. I don’t look at this as a short-term thing. I really think we have a really good shot this season [at winning the NBA title] and for years to come. With me being here, I felt like we would be pretty good because I think I would fit in and gel with these guys really well.”
I understand you had several options in free agency, including the Warriors and the Rockets. Is that correct?
Gordon: “Yeah. Houston and the Warriors were definitely an option. Milwaukee was definitely an option. But I felt Phoenix was onto something special. It was a tough decision, but I really think we have everything going on here from ownership, to coaches and to players. It’s hard to beat.”
I read that [Suns owner] Matt Ishbia played a role during your free agency. What did he do?
Gordon: “He was honest and told me how the culture is going to be. When you have the players and the coaching staff we have, it’s easier to relate to in terms of his background. That’s why I’m here. Everything has been rolling pretty good.
You’ve played with several stars over the years with Baron Davis and Blake Griffin (Clippers), Chris Paul and James Harden (Houston), and last season with the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. How does this compare with playing with the Suns’ stars?
Gordon: “They’re all unique in their own way. But to have this much talent collectively with the Suns is definitely different. All we have to get down is the chemistry part. Then, I think things will work out really well. The key is just to be ready. Don’t just sit back and watch what they do. Always try to find ways to be productive.”
One of the question marks is on the team’s recent injury issues. I understand some of that is just part of the game. But what is the group doing to try to better its chances to stay healthy this season?
Gordon: “It’s all about being professional. You have to do everything possible to try to stay on the floor. The more you stay on the floor, we’ll be better. That’s a tough one. But those are things we’ll have to overcome together.”
With all that, what’s your outlook on the Suns winning the NBA title?
Gordon: “The talent is going to be there. We have to stay as healthy as we can. That’s No. 1. And no. 2? Once we get the chemistry down, it’s going to be really hard to stop us. In the playoffs, it’s going to be really hard to beat us four times.”
You’ve often received praise for how well you fit in with stars on good teams. What’s enabled you to do that?
Gordon: “You just have to have a role where Coach trusts you with the whole team. I’m going to figure it out and where I’m going to fit in. As long as I have some responsibilities with the ball or off the ball, I can help any team.”
With your skills as a ball handler, 3-point shooter and your defense, how will you incorporate that onto this team?
Gordon: “I’m a basketball player. If I can knock down shots, I can get to the basket. I can create on my own. But it’s all about playing off of your star players. I can do that. You just have to have an unselfish mindset. But when you get the ball, you have to be selfish about making the right plays all the time. A lot of the good players around the league with whatever team I’ve been on, always want me in the game with them. I can spread the floor out and they can still operate the way they want to. I’ve had that going on everywhere I’ve been.”
Suns coach Frank Vogel called you a ‘pro’ and said you’ve always been a ‘winning player.’ What has gone into having that mentality?
Gordon: “It’s just about having the mindset to make winning plays and playing the right way. As long as you try to be a winning player, you can always be on a team. A winning player is being ready for whatever comes at you, whether it’s coming off the bench or starting. It’s about making an impact whenever I’m in the game.”
You obviously first want to win an NBA title. But is it a goal to win 6th Man of the Year this season? (Gordon also won the award in the 2016-2017 season with Houston).
Gordon: “It could be and would be if I come off the bench for most of the season. That would be a major goal. To be a really good spark, I’ve done it. I would love to do it again. There’s no issue with that.”
In fairness has Frank said to you that you could start a lot of games, too?
Gordon: “You never know. We just have to be open-minded. There might be some games that I start. There are probably going to be a lot of games where I come off the bench. I’m open to whatever it takes to win.”
What was the key to winning 6th Man of the Year your first time around?
Gordon: “The key was that Coach [Mike D’Antoni] trusted me with the ball. I’m going to play the right way. I think with the team that we have, if you let me be impactful, we’re going to be a hard team to stop.”
You’ve had a lot of challenges through your career with the Clippers trading you [in 2011], Rockets losing to the Warriors in Game 7 [in the 2018 Western Conference Finals], various injuries, and the Clippers losing to Phoenix last season with injuries to Kawhi [Leonard] and PG [Paul George]. What do you take away from all of those moments?
Gordon: “Those are all challenges, but you always have to find a way to be impactful. I always try to figure out a way. I always try to knock down 3s. I always try to create and get to the basket. I always try to be myself defensively. I’m a physical guard. If you want to have a winning organization, I’m a part of it because I’ve always played winning basketball. Everyone knows I’ll take on that challenge and that I’m dependable.”
Do you ever have ‘what-if’ thoughts on any of those things?
Gordon: “There are always what-ifs. But you always just have to capitalize. I can always say, ‘What if Chris Paul didn’t injure his hamstring [vs the Warriors]? If he hadn’t injured his hamstring, we probably would have been there [in the 2018 NBA Finals]. You just never know in this league. Things happen.”