Ex-Bull Ben Gordon attempts NBA comeback
Ben Gordon with the Bulls in 2007.
Per the collective bargaining agreement, the Bulls’ All-Star break lasts until Wednesday evening, when they’ll gather for practice at the Advocate Center.
On Monday, one of the most notable players from the franchise’s post-dynasty era left town for Frisco, Texas. That’s when the All-Star break for the Development League ended, and Ben Gordon had to reunite with his Texas Legends.
A "two ships in the night" metaphor seems fitting, especially because most Bulls will return from warm-weather vacations, some even on private jets, while Gordon flew back commercially and has bus trips for road games in his future.
But if such details are bothering the only player in NBA history to win Sixth Man of the Year as a rookie after averaging 15.1 points in 24.4 minutes on the surprising 2004-05 Bulls, the No. 3 overall pick out of Connecticut isn’t showing it.
"I’m kind of low maintenance. Playing basketball and getting paid to do so, I don’t know what’s wrong with that," Gordon said in a phone interview. "It’s minor league. But the rims are the same height. My shot still makes the same sound when it goes in. So it’s fun."
Last seen averaging 6.2 points in 56 games with the 2014-15 Magic and a 2015 training camp cut of the high-octane Warriors, Gordon spent last season with his family, including his 5-year-old son, and staying in shape. Now, he’s attempting an NBA comeback.
The 6-foot-3-inch guard turns 34 in April, one year younger than Dwyane Wade.
"I still watch the NBA closely. And the more I watch it, the more I’m convinced that there’s a spot for me," Gordon said. "Hopefully with a contender because I still would love to win an NBA championship."
Gordon sounds incredulous when asked why he’s beating the bushes to chase perhaps a longshot dream.
"What’s wrong with trying? I’m really doing it because it’s fun. That’s really it," Gordon said. "Some people need shooting. I can shoot."
Gordon insists he’s not attempting his comeback for money. And he won’t put a time limit on how long he’ll try.
"The D League is a good way to get in shape and still get exposure," Gordon said. "My game is in a decent place I guess. I have to continue to get better. I hadn’t played in awhile. So there’s work but I feel good."
Gordon hoped to land with the Windy City Bulls to be closer to his son. But the local franchise passed on a waiver wire claim and Gordon landed with the Legends, the Mavericks’ affiliate. He’s averaging 16.6 points on 45.4 percent shooting in eight games, including 40.4 percent from 3-point range.
In five seasons with the Bulls, Gordon averaged 18.5 points and shot 41.5 percent from 3-point range. But numbers never fully captured his impact, a dynamic scorer who could put up points in bunches and consistently hit clutch shots.
Gordon cited his game-winning floater at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 17, 2005, and "the entire Celtics (playoff) series" in 2009 as two memories that stand out for him from his Bulls days. Following that Celtics series, acrimonious negotiations led to Gordon signing a five-year, $58 million with the Pistons. They traded him to Charlotte after three seasons.
Gordon moved from an impact player on playoff teams to a low-minute reserve on bad teams. After averaging over 20 points in two of his five Bulls seasons, his highest scoring average peaked at 13.8 points.
"I ended up in some very bad situations. But I don’t have any regrets. Those times happen sometimes," Gordon said. "I look at some rookies who go into situations where their coach may have never coached before. I was fortunate. I got to play under someone (in Scott Skiles) who knew how to coach me and develop younger players. And I got playing time.
"It’s easy to look at this happened or that happened. But when I had some good coaching and solid structure, I flourished. When the situation went south, I didn’t really flourish and neither did anybody else. NBA careers can be up and down. It’s about fit and opportunity and timing."
Gordon is hoping he can be a fit again.