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Every basketball player who makes it to the NBA has some form of motivation that helped them reach this level. Some of the most common motivations are statistics, fame, and money. However, our former Hoosiers have a different motivation: winning games. It takes a complete team effort to consistently win so some players have to sacrifice things like stats, fame, and money to help their team achieve its ultimate potential. This week I will go over how each former Hoosiers has adjusted their play during this season to help their teams:
Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:
Vs Memphis (L 113-104): 8 points (2-5 FG)(4-4 FT), rebound, 4 assists, block, turnover, 2 personal fouls, 20 minutes.
@ Houston (L 108-101): 10 points (4-10 FG)(1-1 FT), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 personal fouls, 33 minutes.
Vs Cleveland (W 114-108): 19 points (7-9 FG)(1-2 FT), rebound, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 31 minutes.
Coming into this week, Eric Gordon has played 384 regular season basketball games. In all but 17 of those games he has been the starting shooting guard. So it says a lot about how much Gordon values winning to openly accept Head Coach Alvin Gentry’s proposition to come off the bench for the New Orleans Pelicans, especially since he is in a contract year and is playing some of his best basketball since his Clippers-days. For the record, Gordon’s move to the bench was not performance-related but, similar to Victor Oladipo’s situation with the Orlando Magic, is so that he can add scoring to a bench unit that doesn’t have much punch besides Ryan Anderson. The move didn’t last very long as Gentry put Gordon back in the starting lineup after one game and placed Jrue Holiday with the second unit for the last two games. It’s unknown whether or not this change is permanent or if Gentry is just trying out different lineups, but what is known is that Gordon has publicly stated he’d happily return to the bench if it’s what is best for his team.
Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:
@ Minnesota (W 96-93): 13 points (5-11 FG)(2-2 FT), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers, 4 personal fouls, 28 minutes.
@ Utah (W 103-94): 14 points (5-13 FG)(3-3 FT), 7 rebounds, 2 assists, block, 2 turnovers, 3 personal fouls, 24 minutes.
@ Los Angeles Clippers (L 103-101): 24 points (10-20 FG)(3-4 FT), 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks, 4 turnovers, 3 personal fouls, 34 minutes.
Oladipo’s recent move to the bench is the perfect example of a player sacrificing something (the sacrifice in this case being his place in the starting lineup and about five fewer minutes of playing time) to help his team win. I wrote a lot about Oladipo’s move to the bench last week so I’m not going to go in-depth again on the situation, but just know that things have worked perfectly. Although it did come to an end against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Orlando Magic was still able to achieve their first five-game winning streak since January of 2012. The fact that Oladipo, who a good percentage of Magic fans feel is the team’s best player, has not only accepted but has embraced his new role just confirms his dedication to winning. Then again, Hoosier fans knew that already, but it’s good to know that three years removed from his time in Bloomington that his approach hasn’t changed.
Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:
@ Los Angeles Clippers (L 102-87): 2 points (1-4 FG), rebound, 4 personal fouls, 13 minutes.
Vs Dallas (L 115-112 OT): 0 points (0-1 FG), rebound, personal foul, 6 minutes.
Vs Indiana (W 123-111): 6 points (3-3 FG), 4 rebounds, turnover, personal foul, 18 minutes.
@ Minnesota (W 109-103): 4 points (2-4 FG), 3 rebounds, assist, steal, 2 turnovers, 15 minutes.
Nothing has changed for Noah Vonleh from last week, which is very interesting by itself. Vonleh has still been starting at power forward for the Portland Trail Blazers despite the team having Meyers Leonard, the previous starting power forward that Vonleh replaced, back from injury for more than a week. Instead, Leonard has anchored the second unit and has played power forward during crunch time. Being in the starting lineup, Vonleh doesn’t have to sacrifice as much as other former Hoosiers but then again he’s only a starter in name, averaging only 15.6 minutes in 10 starts. Vonleh could complain about not getting starter minutes but he’s smarter than that. He understands that his role is relatively small at this stage of his career and so he’s just going with the flow so that he can help his team.
Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:
Vs Golden State (L 116-99): 6 points (2-6 FG)(2-2 FT), 3 rebounds, turnover, personal foul, 17 minutes.
@ Chicago (W 102-96): 17 points (6-10 FG)(5-7 FT), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, steal, block, 4 personal fouls, 32 minutes.
Since being drafted fourth overall in the 2013 NBA Draft by the formerly-known Charlotte Bobcats, Cody Zeller’s role with the organization has changed so many times that I’ve lost count. No former Hoosier currently in the NBA has sacrificed more for the sake of winning than Zeller. It started right from the start of his rookie season when Zeller, drafted for the purposes of being the franchise’s starting center, was forced to back up Al Jefferson for a team that would go on to clinch the eighth seed in the eastern conference. Since then, Zeller has been in and out of the starting lineup based solely on what the Charlotte Hornets need him to do. Yet he’s accepted every new challenge and has used his time in different roles to improve different basketball skills. That’s why it’s so awesome that Zeller is playing very well filling in at center for the injured Jefferson. The position is still Jefferson’s when he returns, but the Hornets have to be thrilled to see Zeller succeed doing what he was initially intended to do for the franchise.
Eric Gordon: 17.0ppg, 2.3rpg, 3.0apg, 0.90spg, 0.20bpg, 1.7tpg, 2.2fpg, 41.1% FG, 35.4% 3FG, 86.6% FT, 34.4mpg.
Victor Oladipo: 14.7ppg, 6.1rpg, 3.9apg, 1.22spg, 0.83bpg, 1.6tpg, 2.2fpg, 39.5% FG, 27.0% 3FG, 80.3% FT, 30.8mpg.
Noah Vonleh: 2.9ppg, 3.0rpg, 0.3apg, 0.14spg, 0.29bpg, 0.8tpg, 1.8fpg, 39.7% FG, 18.2% 3FG, 75.0% FT, 14.2mpg.
Cody Zeller: 7.4ppg, 5.1rpg, 0.8apg, 0.71spg, 0.53bpg, 0.8tpg, 2.5fpg, 46.7% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 69.5% FT, 21.2mpg.