WESTWEGO, La. (AP) — A smiling Ryan Anderson raved about the beauty, history and friendliness of New Orleans, and characterized the Hornets a young team with a bright future.
It was everything coach Monty Williams and general manager Dell Demps wanted to hear from their new 24-year-old, 6-foot-10, sharp-shooting forward, and everything they wished they had heard from dynamic but disgruntled guard Eric Gordon.
So far Gordon, a restricted free agent, has demonstrated little interest in continuing his career in the Big Easy. On Wednesday, he signed a four-year, $58 million offer sheet from the Phoenix Suns, meaning the Hornets would have to match that in three days to keep him.
Although the Hornets have indicated in the past that they would match any offer for Gordon, Demps declined on Wednesday to confirm whether the team still intended to do so.
"No updates right now," Demps said. "No comments."
Gordon has stated that his "heart is in Phoenix," and that the Hornets have not demonstrated — at least not through their contract proposals — a genuine belief that he is an elite player. Gordon has said New Orleans seems to be decision to draft shooting guard Austin Rivers instead of filling their need for a big body in the middle indicated the Hornets were going in a direction that might not include Gordon.
However, the Hornets on Wednesday traded former starting point guard Jarrett Jack to Golden State as part of a three team trade. The move is expected to give Rivers more of an opportunity to try his hand at point guard, which theoretically, would allow Rivers and Gordon to play together.
For weeks, Demps and Williams have referred to Gordon as their best player and have said they plan to build around him. When asked Wednesday if Gordon was still in his plans, Williams said, "Yes."
"Eric is just in a weird situation right now," Williams said. "He has always talked about being here, and then all of this stuff has come out of the blue.
"I just think when you're going through free agency and you're talking about that kind of money, certain things are said and felt," Williams continued. "But I think when the dust settles, you'll hear more of the truth about where he wants to be."
Yet Williams also stressed that he does not see the wisdom of forcing a player to be in New Orleans against his wishes.
"We want people that want to be here," Williams said. "If you don't want to be here, we've got to make some adjustments."
Williams' demeanor was noticeably brighter talking about Anderson, who was acquired in sign-and-trade deal that sent Gustavo Ayon to the Magic. The trade was agreed upon Sunday and made official when the NBA's trade moratorium ended on Wednesday.
"Ryan brought an element to the Magic that we had to talk about in film a lot," Williams said, explaining that the Hornets knew that they would be taking a risk by backing off of him to offer help to an inside defender.
"Those are the kind of players we want on our team, guys that we had to scout against and prepare for," Williams said. "Not only can he play the game, but he's a high-character guy that is going to have a huge influence on our young guys, our locker room and more importantly on this city. We said from day one we wanted guys who wanted to be here and he was a guy that was excited from our first conversation about coming to New Orleans."
Anderson, who averaged 16 points a game last season, said he sees himself as a versatile player whose talents are somewhat untapped because he was limited in what he was allowed to do in a Magic offense that ran through star center Dwight Howard.
"I'm definitely willing to move around and play different positions," said Anderson, who joins a lineup including top overall draft pick Anthony Davis. Obviously shooting is something that's kind of been my strength but I think there are a lot more elements to my game that people haven't quite seen yet."
Anderson was a high school standout in Sacramento when Demps started following his development. Anderson said the fact that people in his hometown who shaped him as a player and person have relationships with Demps made playing for the Hornets particularly appealing.
"It makes it kind of feel like home," Anderson said. "The fact we have a young team also brings more of a family atmosphere which I'm excited about, because everybody's sort of on the same page. I think there's a lot of different things I can bring to this team and I'm excited to get rolling."