NEW ORLEANS — After an impressive tune-up in the Hornets’ victory at Charlotte on Saturday, guard Eric Gordon is set for his home debut tonight against the Atlanta Hawks at New Orleans Arena.
Gordon scored 24 points and had seven assists, but far beyond the numbers was that the Hornets (7-23) simply looked better as a team, albeit against the Bobcats, who lost their 18th consecutive game.
Driving to the basket often, Gordon shot 14 free throws, and teammates received better shot opportunities.
“That’s what I try to do when I come off pick-and-rolls, attract a lot of attention,” he said after Monday’s practice at the Arena. “That’s why it’s all about being aggressive for a guard and trying to get to the basket.”
Gordon, returning from a patella injury in which he missed all of the preseason and the first 29 games of the regular season, played just 25 minutes against Charlotte in accordance with a playing-time restriction.
He had said in the days leading to his return that the only issue was conditioning. However, being with his teammates, having an encouraging first performance, and the knee being fine after the game has him wanting to up the count.
The game against the Hawks is the first of back-to-back games.
The Hornets play at Houston on Wednesday.
“We do have a back-to-back, so that’s something we have to talk about,” he said. “I want to progress with more minutes each time, but that’s something we have to talk about after each game.”
At the start of the season, with Gordon’s injury situation like a daily saga, fans booed when his picture appeared on the scoreboard during team introductions as he sat out.
However, Gordon has maintained that he was not expecting the worst from Hornets fans when he returned, saying that is was just important that the team improved its play.
On Tuesday, he seemed to be approaching his home debut like any other player, and said there was no anxiety.
“We thrive off the crowd,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll give us a good amount of energy, because we’re looking forward to winning a lot more games. We’re looking forward to a winning streak, and we know that we’re capable of playing better.”
The Hawks (19-9) had won four consecutive games before losing to Houston 123-104 Monday night since Lou Williams was inserted into the starting lineup at shooting guard.
In the five games, Williams, 6-feet-1, has averaged 18.4 points, 5.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds. He has made 15 3-pointers in the span.
“He gives them a different dynamic with his scoring,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said.
Point guard Greivis Vasquez was selected Western Conference Player of the Week for games played Dec. 24-30. It’s the first time in Vasquez’s career that he has been chosen Player of the Week. He led the Hornets to a 2-1 record, averaging 21.0 points, 10.0 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals. He had a career-high 27 points to go with eight assists and six rebounds in a victory at Orlando. In the next game, a loss at home to Toronto, he had 20 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds. On Sunday at Charlotte, he had 16 points, eight assists, four rebounds and four steals. . . . The Hornets sent small forward Darius Miller, a rookie from Kentucky, to the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League on Monday. Miller had played sparingly of late, particularly with the arrival of forward Dominic McGuire two weeks ago. “I didn’t like him just sitting,” Williams said. “I think it’s beneficial for him to go out and play and get some reps in games. He’s got some skill, but he just wasn’t in the rotation.”