Twelve hours after the New Orleans Pelicans’ loss to the Dallas Mavericks, guard Eric Gordon was at the team’s practice facility early Sunday, working on his game and searching for answers.
Gordon was coming off an 0-of-6 shooting performance in which he didn’t score, and that was exacerbated by his four turnovers, including a crucial one late in the game when the Pelicans were trying to cut into a four-point deficit.
Two games into the season, Gordon has scored eight points on 3-of-14 shooting with six turnovers. He did block two shots in Tuesday’s season-opening win over Orlando.
“I got in, started working early because (Saturday night) was a little rough,” Gordon said. “I never had a game like that. I don’t remember once in my career, but it can happen, and it happened. So it’s just 80 more games, and I’m moving on from it.”
That doesn’t seem the case just yet. Gordon appears confused and clearly affected by his new role.
He was a key scoring option for the team the past two seasons, including 2012-13, when he didn’t play in back-to-back games while rehabilitating his right knee. He averaged 17.0 points that season and 15.4 last year, which was promising because he played 64 games, the most since his rookie year of 2008-09.
But when Gordon was out with a knee injury near the end of last season, Tyreke Evans, the top player on the second unit, took over his spot and flourished, earning a starting spot, even as Gordon retained his.
This season, even though the 6-foot-6 Evans plays small forward, he often is the de facto point guard when the Pelicans have the ball because of his ability to drive and pass — and that has changed things. Point guard Jrue Holiday plays off the ball and, with power forward Anthony Davis the top option and sixth man Ryan Anderson coming in as another scorer, Gordon has become the odd man out.
“You just have to find a certain rhythm within the team,” Gordon said. “At first, it’s like a different role, but now it’s forcing me to do other things.”
That has taken an adjustment, one Gordon feels has limited his effectiveness.
“I don’t get a chance to do some of the things I do best as far as coming off a lot of pick-and-rolls, catching (the ball) and shooting,” he said. “It’s different for me. But at the same time, I just can’t have a game like (Saturday).”
Coach Monty Williams acknowledged that Gordon’s role has changed. The team’s new quick-strike offense is built around the driving and passing of Evans and predicated on the team getting stops on defense. That three guards are in the lineup has been considered a plus by both Williams and his players.
Williams said Gordon isn’t the only one on the team with a new role.
“All of the guys are being affected by that,” he said. “But that’s part of developing a good team. It’s finding your role, sacrificing when you need to. He’s going to have nights when he goes for 20, 25 (points). He’s going to have nights where he scores six or eight. And everybody’s going to wonder what’s wrong. And I’m going to be like, ‘Nothing is wrong with him.’ ”
But can the Pelicans, who have just a few good outside shooters, win consistently without getting scoring from Gordon, a career 36.8 percent shooter on 3-point attempts?
Often in situations like this, the player is moved down to the second unit, where he can find chances to score and cut down on the dropoff when the starters exit the game. That had been Anderson’s role with the Pelicans — and he was the team’s leading scorer last season before being injured.
Williams did not rule out such a move. The Pelicans bench has struggled, and it was outscored 36-14 on Saturday.
“We put a lot of thought into a lot of those scenarios,” Williams said. “But whether he’s in the first or second unit, he’s still got to play at a high level.”
Gordon said he played a lot with the second unit against Dallas, but the results were the same.
“The only way you can score a lot of points is if you shoot the ball,” he said. “It’s a different role, and I’ve got to find a way to get shots. I was just a little hesitant (Saturday). I’ll just get better at that. It’s just one game.”
The Pelicans visit the Memphis Grizzlies (3-0) at 7 p.m. Monday. New Orleans (34-48 last season) won the 2013-14 season series 3-1, even though the Grizzlies finished 50-32. … It’s the front half of the Pelicans’ first back-to-back this season; the Charlotte Hornets visit the Smoothie King Center at 7 p.m. Tuesday. ... Grizzlies starting shooting guard Courtney Lee is not expected to play after suffering a concussion Friday at Indiana. He did not play Saturday at Charlotte.