Though he plays there, Gordon couldn’t be less L.A.—he prefers laid-back Indy to Hollywood in the offseason—from his game to his demeanor. Fundamentally sound in true midwest fashion, he’s similarly low key off the court, speaking in a measured tone and eschewing signs of the glamorous life. So it makes sense that for his hard-charging style built on speed, power, athleticism and grace, you won’t find Gordon in low-cut sneaks that can’t handle his strong yet shifty maneuvers; nor is he willing to be restricted by “big man shoes” that stop him from fully utilizing his underrated quickness. Rather, he wants something that fits his persona—functionally effective and on the cutting edge, technology-wise, with an understated style. Hence, adidas’ aptly named Stupidly Light, Gordon’s new sneakers, which drop this fall. “This is definitely lighter than all the other shoes that I’ve had. I play with power and speed, and that’s a good combination for a shoe that’s light,” explains Gordon, who’s been working out in his new kicks this summer. “It does fit my game. I need the power to support my ankles, so I like that.”
Adidas designer Robbie Fuller is happy to explain. “His game is quick and strong, so we thought the lightweight aspect is perfect for the quickness and the cushioning is great for the strength part. The shoe has a lot of technical features, but it also has more traditional values that we thought tied into the fact that he’s an Indiana type of guy with midwest values,” says Fuller about the sneaker, which utilizes adidas’ SprintWeb technology and will have an updated mid-season release, the adiZero Shadow. “This shoe is right beside [the adidas Crazy Light] in terms of delivering that lightweight benefit that every player needs, but increasing the cushioning, comfort and stability in certain key areas, especially right around the ankle.
“The game seems to be getting better in all areas and I think this shoe is a good example of that. Where maybe five years ago, something at that mid price point would be strong but not great, something like this completely blows that stuff out of the water,” continues Fuller. “We’re increasing the performance and delivering the best product to date.”
Gordon sees the shoe as specific to a certain breed of player—slashers and wings, as opposed to point guards, who adidas has targeted with the Crazy Lights. “They’re more for, I would say, shooting guards. Guys who are more scorers because we do a lot of cutting and more physical play,” he notes. “Definitely guards and even small forwards.”
That he takes pride in being a power guard—emphasis on “power,” at a stocky 6-3 and 222 chiseled pounds—and still considers himself a natural playmaker isn’t Gordon trying to be all things to all people; he just believes he has that type of versatility. But when the bread and butter of his game is examined—his strength, outside touch, driving ability and scoring instincts—the young student of the game acknowledges he has some similarities to another underrated star of yesteryear.
“Some people say Mitch Richmond,” says Gordon, who wants to have an even better career than “Rock,” a premier 2 whose prime was eclipsed by MJ’s reign and playing on perennially bad Kings teams. “A guy who could drive it to the basket, shoot threes. I watched him a lot and I could see my game being similar to his.”
But Richmond never enjoyed the benefits of a running mate like Griffin, let alone a legion of young players (athletic center DeAndre Jordan, promising forward Al-Farouq Aminu and backup point guard Eric Bledsoe, among others) to complement him.
“We have good chemistry on the court,” Gordon says of playing with Griffin. “I come off a lot of pick-and-rolls with him and he’s good to have. He’s a dominant force.”
While many observers referred to the “Clippers curse” continuing in the form of Kyrie Irving—the Clips’ mid-season trade with the Cavs that brought Mo Williams to L.A. and sent Baron Davis to the Cavs came at the cost of what became the No. 1 Draft pick—Gordon sees it as a blessing in disguise, giving him the freedom to play both on and off the ball because of Mo’s spot-up shooting ability.
“We are interchangeable, and I’m more of a playmaker, so I definitely like having the ball in my hands,” says Gordon. “I should be able to play the 1 and the 2.”
While Vinny Del Negro’s first year at the helm of the Clippers wasn’t super smooth, Gordon has faith in his coach’s ability as a “developer” and relishes the fact that he lets his young charges “play freely”—nobody can say he didn’t give young players like Rose and Joakim Noah the freedom to grow with the Bulls—giving Gordon confidence that the Clippers are headed in the right direction.
“We do a lot of things differently since we’re young, and I think we’re capable of beating anybody out there,” says EJ. “We’re trying to come up and be one of those powerhouse teams, and I think we’re capable of doing that, maybe next year and then, the future.”
Ambitious? Absolutely. Realistic? Only time will tell. Content with playing in the background? At least on the court, that’s in the past.
Aggrey Sam covers the Bulls for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.