Eric Gordon may have the game of an All Star, but he doesn't have the game for an All Star game.
For the second consecutive Rookie Challenge, Gordon tried to play team basketball in a playground game and he just looked out of place. He took four shots in 21 minutes of court time. Compare that to the likes of Michael Beasley (25 shots in 26 minutes), Wussell Westbwook (29 shots in 32 minutes - and he's the POINT GUARD!) and Brandon Jennings (23 shots in 27 minutes). Of the 18 players in the game, only one took fewer shots than EJ, and no one took fewer shots per minute. These games are usually dominated by the guards, since (a) there's no passing, and (b) the guards have th ball in their hands. So the bigs tend to take the fewest shots - five for Brook Lopez, six for Marc Gasol, three for Taj Gibson (in only 9 minutes). That's what makes EJ's shot total even more remarkable - he's a guard, but he's not "getting his" in an All Star game. Then there's the fact that he's actually playing some defense out there. I mean, he had a steal and a blocked shot in this one. What's he thinking about?
We've discussed this before in the context of his regular game. He's still too deferential, especially if he's supposed to be a primary scoring option. He doesn't force shots and rarely takes a bad shot, which is why his total shooting percentage remains so high. But none of that really works in the all star game format. If you pass up a shot and instead deliver the ball to a teammate, you're not getting it back. It even appeared in this game that his teammates were ignoring him a bit. Multiple times in the first half, Westbwook had the ball in the middle with EJ wide open on a wing - but the pass never went that way, as Wussell either shot himself (most of the time) or passed to the other wing. So you wonder if his demure personality just doesn't demand the ball. You certainly don't get the impression that he's ever pulling a Keyshawn "Give me the damn ball" in the huddle.
The dunk-in at halftime started off pretty painfully. He always seemed like a strange choice. Yes, he's got a 40 inch vertical leap, so he's more than capable of getting high enough to dunk the ball. But for the same reason that he doesn't thrive in the Rookie Challenge, he's not a good choice for a dunk contest. He's not a show off. I've been to a lot of Clipper games the last two years, and I have NEVER seen EJ dunk a ball in pre-game warmups. For him, a layup line is a layup line. Mike Taylor was breaking out insane dunks before every game. That's just not EJ.
So when he tried the 'bounce pass off the backboard' dunk, it looked like he'd never practiced it - and he probably hadn't. In the end, the two dunks he completed were pretty impressive - better than anything Gerald Wallace or Shannon Brown did on Saturday, that's for sure. (Um, Shannon, that thing you did when you caught the pass from Kobe and dunked the ball - it's called an 'alley oop' and it's been done.)
But there was no way that EJ was going to beat eventual finalist DeMar DeRozan in the dunk in, particularly with the fans voting. EJ looks a little embarrassed to be out there - I just don't see fans picking up their cell phones to text their vote for him. He looked like he'd rather not be there... fans would almost have to be cruel to vote for him and make him go through that again in the actual dunk contest.
EJ's got a terrific all around basketball game, and he's got a real shot at being in an actual all star game as he continues to mature and improve. But in the end, his talents are much more suited to the games that count, not to the showcase of All Star Weekend.