As prerecorded thunder clapped and man-made lightning flashed behind him, Eric Gordon pondered the relative challenges of the NBA’s opening week and decided he might be about to walk into the worst of it.
Playing defending champion Golden State was tough, Gordon figured, but the Pelicans guard had more apprehension about The Mortuary haunted house that awaited him.
“I’m not prepared for this,” Gordon said. “You can prepare for the Warriors.”
Ready or not, Gordon was about to give The Mortuary a try, part of an appearance with a group of teenagers who participate in the Juma program, which assists high school students in securing jobs that allow them to stay focused on academics.
Gordon surprised the Juma students at a meeting, announced he’d be providing them with tickets to Saturday’s home opener against Golden State, then rode a streetcar down Canal Street to The Mortuary.
It’s the sort of event, Gordon said, that makes him feel at home in New Orleans.
“I’ve been here for five years now — it’s gone by so fast, it’s crazy,” Gordon said. “It’s been more enjoyable each year as I’ve been here. It’s been good learning the city more and more each year. It’s been great.”
The Pelicans’ start hasn’t.
After a 111-95 loss at Golden State on Tuesday, the Pelicans lost 112-94 to the Trail Blazers Wednesday in Portland. Through two games, New Orleans is averaging 89.7 points per 100 possessions and allowing 108.9.
The struggles, Gordon said, are at least in part attributable to the “total change” in going from Monty Williams’ structured system to new coach Alvin Gentry’s more free-wheeling up-tempo style.
“When we were with Monty, on offense we were running a set play every time,” said Gordon, who’s averaging 15 points per game. “And now it’s all about actions. Everything’s going fast. And the guys are learning that. Defense is almost the same way. It’s somewhat individual, but it’s still a team effort.”
The adjustment is complicated, Gordon admitted, by the Pelicans’ injuries. Projected starters Tyreke Evans, Omer Asik and Quincy Pondexter are among the injured, along with backup point guard Norris Cole and reserve forward Luke Babbitt. It’s “tough,” Gordon said, to deal with injuries at the outset of a new season.
“You can’t make excuses,” Gordon said. “We have the talent out there. We still have guys that can make plays for us to win the game.”
Still, the Pelicans made a move toward a roster change on Thursday, waiving Nate Robinson to free up room to sign another backup point guard, former Pelican Toney Douglas.
“He’s new, and he’s also been with us, so it’s good to have him,” Gordon said. “He’s always been very aggressive. He has that aggressive style of play, so I think it’s going to work out for us.”
On Saturday, the Pelicans will look to show they’ve made some strides when the Warriors visit. And that prospect is less frightening than a mysterious haunted house for Gordon, who said he was “big into superheroes” and Halloween as a kid.
The trip through The Mortuary, after all, would be finished quickly. The Pelicans’ season is a long haul.
“It was good to see our weaknesses (against the Warriors), basically,” Gordon said. “We’ve just got to keep on getting better and eventually things will come. We’re a very talented team. People should never, never forget that, but we’ll be better.”