Pelicans shift focus from summer league to training camp _lowres

Advocate staff photo by A.J. SISCO -- New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon (10) bring the up the court during action against the Brooklyn Nets at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans Wednesday, February 25, 2015.

It may not be official, but Eric Gordon is certainly making it look that way.

The New Orleans Pelicans shooting guard tweeted “#TakeFlight”, the franchise’s official hashtag, which revealed he’s planning to opt-in to the final year of his contract.

Sources close to the situation confirmed Gordon’s return to the Pelicans but claimed no paperwork had been officially filed as of Wednesday evening. However, multiple Pelicans officials said they were confident Gordon was returning to the team throughout the process.

By remaining in New Orleans for the final year of his deal, Gordon will earn $15.5 million from the Pelicans and become an unrestricted free agent in the 2016 offseason. His addition also squeezes the Pelicans’ salary cap room, with $55.8 million now guaranteed on the books for the 2015-16 roster.

The NBA salary cap is projected at $67.1 million, leaving an estimated $11.3 million remaining for the Pelicans offseason, which includes the free agency of major contributors like center Omer Asik, point guard Norris Cole and forward Dante Cunningham.

Free agency officially begins on July 1.

Gordon came to New Orleans from the Los Angeles Clippers in a 2011 trade that jettisoned then-Hornets’ superstar Chris Paul, joining Chris Kaman, Al-Farooq Aminu and a first-round pick on a transitioning franchise. Gordon is the only piece of that trade still playing in New Orleans.

After a pair of injury-plagued seasons which only allowed him to participate in 51 of 164 games, Gordon became one of the Pelicans primary offensive weapons the past two seasons. He was a sharpshooter in particular during the 2014-15 campaign, leading the team in 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage by making 141-of-315 attempts (44.8 percent), ranked No. 2 in the NBA.

Returning to the Pelicans also brings Gordon full-circle with new coach Alvin Gentry, whom Gordon nearly signed to play for in 2012 when Gentry was coaching the Phoenix Suns, who signed him to an offer sheet.

“I strongly feel they are the right franchise for me,” Gordon said in a 2012 statement. “Phoenix is just where my heart is now.”

Despite Gordon’s desires to jump to Phoenix, Pelicans’ general manager Dell Demps matched Gordon’s $58 million contract, keeping the restricted free agent in New Orleans for three guaranteed seasons but leaving a player-option in for the 2015-16 campaign.

And this time, without any drama, Gordon chose to remain a part of the Pelicans for at least one more season.