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Clippers glad to get Gordon

The Indiana guard is the pick at No. 7, and Baylor says he 'was our man all the way.'

June 27, 2008|Jonathan Abrams | Times Staff Writer

They pushed.

And Eric Gordon pushed back.

There was only one other player on the court when the baby-faced Gordon took center stage in workouts for the Clippers. That was Nevada's Marcelus Kemp, not as elite a prospect as Gordon, but one that stretched a couple of inches taller.

Battling those types of players was one of the few lingering questions the Clippers had concerning Gordon and when he answered those, the Clippers couldn't pass on him with the seventh overall pick in Thursday's NBA draft.

"They tried to see if I could guard guys that were stronger and bigger and I think I pretty much showed a good taste of that," said Gordon, who declared for the draft after his freshman season at Indiana.

Through all the trade rumors, politicking and hearsay, the Clippers cobbled up the player they had long coveted. In the hours before the choice, the Clippers continued discussions with the Seattle SuperSonics in trading up to the fourth overall slot with thoughts of picking Gordon there in a move that never materialized.

It was a fortunate break for the Clippers, given that they finished tied with the New York Knicks for the fifth-worst overall record at 23-59 last season, but lost a coin flip and moved back a draft position. They shuffled back another spot when the Chicago Bulls defied drastic odds in the lottery to capture the top overall selection.

Gordon is 6 feet 2 and 222 pounds. He is a combination guard, but less Gilbert Arenas and more Ben Gordon. Despite his short stature, Gordon has wide shoulders and bowled his way to an average of 20.9 points a game, tops in the Big Ten.

"We have a lot of guys on our team who post up and get double teams and he'll be able to stretch the floor for us, but he's also a guy who attacks the rim and gets to the free-throw line," Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said.

A wrist injury led to a tapering off as his season progressed. Otherwise, many had Eric Gordon pegged as a top-three selection.

"It is fully healed," Gordon said of his wrist. "I thought I would be better off if I did not have an injury throughout the season, but stuff happens and you play through it."

Gordon, 19, signed with agent Rob Pelinka, who also represents Kobe Bryant, and current Clippers Chris Kaman and Corey Maggette.

"Eric Gordon was our man all the way," said Elgin Baylor, vice president of basketball operations.

"We were hoping he would be there. We heard talks, rumors about who different teams were going to pick, then we were pretty sure he was going to be there."

So, the Clippers expect some of their backcourt issues are resolved with Gordon providing some relief to Cuttino Mobley at the shooting-guard position.

But not the backcourt issue.

For all Gordon is expected to be, he is not a point guard, the position where the Clippers need the most help. Shaun Livingston will become a free agent next week when the Clippers decline to tender him a qualifying offer and is still rehabilitating from a devastating knee injury.

That will leave journeyman Brevin Knight as the only point guard on the roster.

The Clippers are expected to shop for a point guard once free agency opens with Sacramento's Beno Udrih, whom they had already made one failed attempt at landing last season, and Toronto's Jose Calderon as early targets.

"We will have to address those either through free agency or trades," Dunleavy said.

As for Thursday, the Clippers faced what they foresaw as an unlikely scenario. Gordon and Jerryd Bayless, the only player to work out privately twice with the team, were both remaining on the board when they picked.

"We liked Bayless, he had very good workouts," Dunleavy said. "He's a guy if Gordon wasn't there, we probably would have taken."

And with both still there, was there any debate?

Both Dunleavy and Baylor chuckled.

"No," they both said.

------

In the draft's second round, the Clippers selected DeAndre Jordan, a center from Texas A&M, with the 35th selection.

Jordan is considered a raw prospect and averaged 7.9 points and six rebounds last season.

They also traded next year's second-round pick for the draft rights to Mike Taylor, selected 55th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers.

Taylor, a guard, played at Iowa State but was kicked off the team and then spent last season in the Development League with the Idaho Stampede, averaging 14.5 points.

--

jonathan.abrams@latimes.com

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