As you’ve no doubt heard, Pope Francis has graced our shores to visit the Eastern seaboard and give an impassioned speech to Congress, appealing to each side of the aisle on certain issues and alienating each on others. The Archbishop of Rome is just like you and me and most of us in that sense; too evolved and complex to be reduced to a simple ideology that feels exactly the way the party line claims we should on every polarizing topic. His Holiness invoked “The Golden Rule” as a unifying theme, but the times being what they are, even that was parsed as a coded message for one cause over another.
Meanwhile, his boss continues to show a delightfully wicked sense of humor. How else can you explain the Warriors reportedly being on the verge of signing a washed up ne’er-do-well like Ben Gordon to a training camp invite — essentially a tryout — a day after another shooting guard whom they shipped out of town to test your faith announced his retirement?
Gordon, 32, formerly of the Bulls, Pistons, Bobcats and most recently the Magic, hasn’t been relevant for years. His time with both Detroit and Charlotte ended acrimoniously, with the Bobcats waiving him one day after the deadline for him to be playoff roster eligible if he signed on elsewhere.
A career 43 percent shooter (and 40 percent from downtown), Gordon was absolutely miserable in Charlotte, shooting 40 percent the first season and then 34 percent the next, in which he lasted only 19 games. Granted, it was only a sample size of 279 minutes, but with a net rating of -25 according to Basketball-Reference.com, Gordon may well have been the single worst player in the league in the 2013-14 season.
Things went better last year with the Magic, though they almost had to by definition. Gordon’s percentages reverted to his career norms, though he averaged just 6.2 points in a click over 14 minutes a night, and his per-36 minutes and per-100 possession extrapolations were still a far cry from his prime years.
Furthermore, Gordon’s an absolutely reprehensible defender. Most damning of all, in terms of the advanced metrics, he ranked 89th among the league’s shooting guards with a -1.66 WAR and 91st in Real Plus-Minus at -5.79. Yes, he can pop in the occasional three, but otherwise there isn’t a single logical reason for him to be on an NBA roster, much less one with aspirations of repeating as champions.
The problem is there are only four legitimate guards on the Warriors roster, and the two second-stringers, Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa, are both on the wobbly side. Other candidates for that fifth guard spot include Brandon Rush, who was woefully out of shape last season and hasn’t been anything resembling a NBA player since tearing up his knee two games into the 2012-2013 campaign; Chris Babb, who was a throw-in from Boston in the David Lee giveaway; and then two fellow undrafted players in Jarell Eddie and Ian Clark.
Juwan Staten is the only other point guard besides Stephen Curry and Livingston, but he’ll probably spend the year in Santa Cruz barring something catastrophic happening to one of those two. Unless one of the kids plays out of his mind during preseason, it looks like a competition between Gordon and Rush, with Gordon as the favorite because the coaches have already seen how bad the latter is.
Meanwhile, there goes Jason Richardson into the good night, choosing to retire at 34 rather than fight through injuries and be a benchwarmer for the Atlanta Hawks. Richardson had a miserable time of it the past few years dealing with various injuries, playing 52 games total for the Sixers the past three years and missing the 2013-14 season entirely. His last productive season was 2010-11. This won’t be a passionate plea for the Warriors to urge him out of retirement. It was time. At this stage Richardson likely even had less left than Gordon, especially with his injury woes.
It’s just a bit of melancholy coincidence that Richardson chose to say goodbye right when the Warriors made the kind of move you’d associate from the bad old days. As Deadspin’s Kevin Draper lovingly explained in his ode to Richardson, the Warriors tonelessly and heartlessly dealt one of the most beloved members of the “We Believe” squad from the 2006-07 season in the following draft for the rights to Brandan Wright. For the first time in a dozen years the Warriors had given fans a team to be excited about, and immediately they jettisoned its most electrifying member. It just shows you how loyal the fan base is, to keep coming back in droves despite such wanton cluelessness from management.
Eventually the Warriors got it right, and even though they did wrong by Richardson, he doesn’t seem to hold any grudges. It would’ve been nice for them to re-sign him for a day, if nothing else, just so he could retire a Warrior.
But hey, I’m sure that Gordon-Rush battle will be just scintillating.