Not to go highbrow here, but let's start with a quote from my favorite 20th century atomic physicist, Niels Bohr, who must have been inhabited by the future ghost of Yogi Berra when he said, "Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future."
For any NBA writer (such as this one) who predicted that the Bulls' Ben Gordon would be the league's Rookie of the Year, Bohr's thought was especially poignant in the first weeks of the season. Because early on, Gordon had about as much chance at winning Rookie of the Year as Bohr did.
That Gordon, the third pick in last year's draft, was undersized (6-3, 200) and a defensive liability at shooting guard was no surprise. But no one knew Gordon would look so clueless offensively. He was miserable in the preseason, shooting 24.7 percent. He was worse in the Bulls' opener, shooting 0-for-6. In his first 17 games, Gordon shot 38.0 percent, averaged 10.5 points and had every atom of his confidence shaken.
"I couldn't shoot," Gordon says. "But I couldn't figure out why, either. It was frustrating."
Slowly, Gordon has emerged. Since those woeful first 17 games, Gordon has averaged 16.0 points on 43.7 percent shooting. His 41.4 percent shooting from the 3-point line ranks 15th in the league.
But it's not the turnaround in stats that has been most impressive, and focusing on the numbers does not do justice to just how good Gordon has been -- he does not play many minutes (24.0), after all, and he commits too many turnovers (2.3 per game). What separates Gordon is that he is a fourth quarter scoring machine, a clutch-shooting security blanket for the young Bulls.
Guess who leads the league (not just rookies) in double-digit fourth quarter scoring efforts. Kobe? Iverson? McGrady? No. It's Gordon, who has done it 20 times.
These are not stat-padding shots, either. Ask the Knicks. In January, Gordon scored 14 points in the fourth, leading the Bulls back from a nine-point deficit against New York; two days later, he made a one-handed running jumper over Mike Sweetney with 0.1 seconds left, beating the Knicks again.
"Some of the shots he has made, especially in the fourth quarter, are unbelievable," Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich says. "I don't know where we'd be without him."
A standard comparison of Gordon's numbers to other top rookies shows that he should finish third for Rookie of the Year -- top pick Dwight Howard is averaging 11.0 points and 10.1 rebounds, and No. 2 pick Emeka Okafor is putting up 14.9 points and 10.7 rebounds. No rookie has a better scoring average than Gordon's 14.9, but his other averages, 2.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists, are mundane. For much of the year, the rookie race has been Okafor vs. Howard, with Okafor leading.
But give the award to Gordon, who will turn 22 on April 4. Throw out standard comparisons. What matters is that the Bulls have become a dangerous team, one likely headed for the playoffs, and it's because of Gordon. Sure, there is a list of reasons for the Bulls' success -- the young core, production from veterans, Scott Skiles' coaching -- but none is more important than Gordon, who brings a late-game confidence young teams usually lack. Already, Gordon has led the Bulls to 12 wins with double-digit fourth quarter scoring. That's 12 wins the Bulls might not have gotten otherwise -- 12 wins that have them in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Perhaps they could have won those games without Gordon. Of course, no one would have predicted such a thing -- but then, predictions can be difficult.
make that 21 times! :yes:
The Sporting News