Hornets bring back Eric Gordon

Updated: July 14, 2012, 8:58 PM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

The New Orleans Hornets, as expected, officially have matched the Phoenix Suns' four-year, $58 million offer sheet to restricted free agent guard Eric Gordon.

New Orleans announced Saturday afternoon that, despite Gordon's numerous comments in recent days urging the team to let him go, it had submitted its matched offer to the Suns.

The Hornets had an 11:59 p.m. Saturday deadline to match.

"There is always a business element to the NBA when dealing with contracts, but I never lost my appreciation for the New Orleans fans," Gordon said in a statement released by the team. "I look forward to giving my very best on the court this season to make our team successful."

Added Hornets general manager Dell Demps in the statement: "Eric is a phenomenal player that we are thrilled to have in our organization."

Now that they've missed out on Gordon, free agents O.J. Mayo and Courtney Lee are at the top of the Suns' wish list to pair with incoming point guard Goran Dragic.

"While we are disappointed that Eric will not be a Sun at this time, we have no regrets in doing all that we could under the rules to bring him to Phoenix," Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby said in a statement.

Gordon was limited to nine games last season because of a bruised right knee that required minor surgery. However, he averaged a team-high 20.6 points, and New Orleans was 6-3 when he played.

The Hornets acquired Gordon shortly before last season in a multiplayer trade that sent All-Star point guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers.

In four seasons in the NBA, Gordon never has averaged fewer than the 16.1 points per game he scored as a rookie.

In this third season, injuries limited him to 56 games with the Clippers, but he averaged 22.3 points.

He was invited to try out for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team and narrowly missed the cut, with Oklahoma City's James Harden edging him for one of the final spots.

Demps and Hornets coach Monty Williams never wavered in saying Gordon was New Orleans' best player and a key part of the club's long-term future.

Still, Gordon's first season in New Orleans left many fans wondering if he really wanted to be in the Big Easy. After scoring the winning basket in the Hornets' season opener in -- of all places -- Phoenix, he sat out for about two weeks while trying to recover from his bruised knee. He attempted to come back in a loss to Philadelphia on Jan. 4, but the knee was still bothering him.

He then went through a prolonged and seemingly fruitless six-week rehabilitation period that sparked debate among fans over whether the high-scoring guard was refusing to play. Those debates heated up further when Gordon rejected the Hornets' four-year contract extension offer at a late-January deadline for teams to complete extensions with players who were due to become restricted free agents after the season.

In mid-February, Gordon and the Hornets finally opted for surgery, and Gordon returned triumphantly on April 4, scoring 15 points in an upset victory over playoff-bound Denver.

New Orleans, which won only 21 games all season, won eight of its last 13 thanks in large part to Gordon's return.

Gordon was a regular at the Hornets' training center leading up to the draft, indicating he had confidence in the club's direction under new owner Tom Benson.

But when free agency began this month, Gordon went on a tour of teams interested in his services and got an offer from Phoenix that represented the maximum a team could pay for another team's restricted free agent.

Gordon then said he hoped to play for the Suns because they made more of an effort to sign him than the Hornets had. Gordon said the Hornets' decision to draft Austin Rivers, who had played Gordon's position of shooting guard at Duke, indicated that New Orleans was moving in a different direction.

Gordon added that the Hornets also had failed to address the need for more frontcourt players.

Since Gordon's comments, however, the Hornets have acquired 6-foot-10 forward Ryan Anderson, and have traded away former starting point guard Jarrett Jack in a deal that cleared about $5 million under the salary cap to help New Orleans seek another big man in free agency.

The Hornets also have begun training Rivers to play point guard, starting in the Las Vegas summer league that opened this weekend.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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