After receiving a last minute invitation to the USA Basketball Mini Camp, and then doing enough to get the attention of the coaching staff after the first couple days, Eric Gordon has struggled since the Camp turned from drills to five-on-five play.
During scrimmages on Friday, the informal box score had him at 1 for 5 from the field and 1 for 2 from the line for a total of 3 points. Then, last night in the showcase event, the Blue versus White game, EJ went 0 for 4 from the field and managed only 2 free throws in a game low 15 minutes - he was the only player out of 20 not to make a field goal. He would have gotten his chance to shine if he'd been on, as White's starting shooting guard, O.J. Mayo, was only 5 for 16 from the field for the game. But missing 4 shots and turning the ball over 3 times is not the way to stay on the floor. Gordon did have a couple rebounds, a couple of assists and a block.
It may be that Gordon just isn't brash enough for this type of event. In the equivalent of an under 25 All Star game, many of the other players are going to get their shots before he does. In the Rookie Challenge game at All Star weekend, EJ started the game hitting everything, making his first 6 shots. But he only ended up with 8 FG attempts, fifth most on the team. Mayo went 5 for 12 while Michael Beasley managed to hoist 22 (!) shots by simply shooting every time he touched the ball. That's not in EJ's nature. So likewise in Vegas, he was a little deferential, taking only 4 shots in 15 minutes. Unfortunately, none of those went in, and he's not really the type to shoot his way out of it.
It's a characteristic that is at once admirable and problematic. He doesn't force things on the basketball court - but there were many times during the season last year, particularly during the stretches when so many other players were hurt, that he NEEDED to take over. In the most brightest vision of a bright Clipper's future, as good as Blake Griffin is going to be, it's nonetheless Gordon who will lead the team in scoring and will be asked to come up with the big plays in close games. He's still only 20, and I think he thinks of himself that way.
Rudy Gay led all scorers in the Blue vs. White game with 27 points. Kevin Durant is the most likely player from this group to join the Senior National Team in their next competition, next summer at the World Championships in Turkey.
Gordon will have another chance at Team USA. The irony is that his willingness to be a team player would be very valuable on such a team - but you can't defer if you want to get noticed in the tryouts.