I know how much everyone loves trade rumors and player movement, but for me, maybe because I’m old now(?), there’s just something to potential finality that is so comforting. I want to be done. I want to keep the same team and watch it improve at the margins through chemistry and internal development. I came to hate the unrest in recent years of keeping an eye towards the next star. Before it surfaced that Chris Paul and James Harden hated each other, I mused repeatedly that my greatest regret was Paul’s age – I wanted to see the two of them, along with Capela, play out their primes together. The Rockets now have the potential finality I described after agreeing to terms with Eric Gordon on Friday evening in a deal which will pay him to be a Rocket for an additional three seasons. Now the comfort in the finality I’ve described solely hinges upon the fact that the team I cover has a roster which can compete for a title. I would not be pining for boring summers otherwise.
If they want, the Rockets can ensure that their four best players in Russell Westbrook, Harden, Gordon, and Capela stay together for four more seasons, with Danuel House on the books for three more seasons, and P.J. Tucker for two more years. That sort of stability is staggering in the modern NBA, in this age of free agency and player empowerment. Having said that, my premise is based on the assumption that Daryl Morey does indeed intend to maintain this core. Capela and Gordon are locked into very trade friendly salaries while Westbrook and Tucker could be nice expirings in the last years of their deals. (In the case of Tucker, a team could realize instant savings given the non-guaranteed nature of the final year of his deal.)
But enough of looking to the future. It became even more important to keep Gordon after the Westbrook trade given the need for shooting. With Paul, I thought it might have made more sense to swap out Gordon for someone bigger, longer, and more athletic.
Looking back, I’d consider Gordon one of the most underrated acquisitions in recent franchise history. He provided fringe All-Star level production at the family friendly price of $14 million a year. And he stayed healthy despite an injury riddled career prior to joining Houston. As Harden’s complement, Gordon helped the Rockets win 55, 65, and 53 games during his tenure with the team.
Now Gordon moves into the post-30’s phase of his career which will pose challenges for a player who has often looked extremely old and slow. That fact is precisely why I was skeptical whether this extension would ever get done. But the ink is dry and I can rest easy.