Aaron Gordon denied nothing.
In an age where it’s difficult to take anything you read or hear as fact, Gordon easily could have denied the reports that he requested a trade from the Orlando Magic, or given a cliched non-answer where he says a lot without actually saying anything at all, or given the standard “No Comment” that has long been a go-to for athletes when avoiding controversial questions. But he didn’t, and he deserves credit for being transparent, and for doing so without placing blame or elevating tension.
He spoke honestly, explaining why after seven seasons as a member of the Magic, he wants out.
“I mean, there’s been times where I just expressed my frustration to management,” Gordon said during his postgame presser when asked by Josh Robbins of The Athletic about his trade request. “Frustration with the losses, injuries, the way we’ve been playing, how we’ve been playing and how many losses have accumulated over the years. You know, it’s just my frustration kind of boiling over, I would say. And I think a lot of people share that sentiment with me, of frustration.”
"Frustration with the losses, the injuries, the way we've been playing, how we've been playing and how many losses have accumulated over the years.— FOX Sports Magic (@FOXSportsMagic) March 24, 2021
Aaron said his frustration has boiled over from the last seven years with the team. #MagicTogether pic.twitter.com/Qi8QjJOv8n
Organization-wide frustration is to be expected when taking part in the last decade of Magic basketball.
Gordon’s tenure with the Magic has coincided with what has been the most frustrating stretch in franchise history. The losses most certainly have accumulated over the years, as Gordon said.
322 of them to be exact during the regular season of Gordon’s tenure (203-322 if my math is correct), capped with their current injury-ravaged season, (with Gordon acknowledging that he expressed frustration with the endless injuries to management perhaps being an indictment on the medical staff?)
Gordon, selected No. 4 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, was one of the earliest core pieces of the Magic’s post-Dwight Howard rebuild. But in the seven seasons since, Gordon and the Magic have never won more than 42 games in a season. During that time, Gordon has played for four different coaches, seen the front office whiff on lottery picks and fail to adequately address glaring needs and make mind-boggling trades, been forced to play out of position, and been a subject of annual trade speculation.
Gordon on Tuesday was asked how he remains focused amid those trade rumors.
“This is a part of the reason why I take mental health so seriously, why I think it’s so important day in and day out,” he said. “Practicing mental health, prayers, meditations, breathing exercises because it’s a lot. It’s a topic of interest being shared throughout the country and you don’t really know where you’re going to end up in the next two to three days. So it is a lot to handle but I’m prepared for it and it’s what makes the sport great in a sense.”
Steve Clifford was also asked after Tuesday’s game how his players handle the trade speculation.
“Obviously there’s no way to gauge that,” he said. “I’ll be honest, the veteran guys it’s every year, and don’t take this personally, but I think a lot of them don’t even read it. They talk to their agents like that, but I don’t think many coaches get caught up in it. I think a lot of the players understand that a large majority of the rumors are basically unfounded. So, I don’t think it’s that big a deal.”
Evan Fournier, at the center of trade speculation himself, said the constant trade chatter has no impact.
“It’s actually not tough as all because we honestly don’t even talk about it because we have to do our job first,” he said. “Like I said there’s a lot of rumors out there about, actually most the players on this team, like four or five, and if we do let that effect us individually, like if I let rumors about myself get to me then I’m not going to be able to perform the way I want to, and that’s where it can get a little tricky. But I feel like each other, there’s noting but love and respect. We’ve been there, Aaron and I, what six years? So whatever happens to Aaron, I’m going to be cool with it. I hope he stays obviously. But we’ll see about that. But there is no friction at all in the locker room with that. Not at all.”
Gordon, of course, is not without blame in the Magic’s inability to break through the ceiling of mediocrity during his time in Orlando — with a core of Gordon, Fournier and Nikola Vucevic together since 2014. He has failed to take “the leap,” he has far too often settled for a turnaround fadeaway rather than attacking the basket, he has been far too inconsistent.
It was a separation that seemed inevitable even before it was reported that Gordon made a formal trade request in February, supposedly seeking a winning situation complete with branding opportunities in a big market. Robbins followed up after Tuesday’s game by asking Gordon if he was still hoping to be traded. This time, Gordon, wisely, deflected the question.
“I’m focused on tomorrow night,” Gordon said. “As of right now I’m an Orlando Magic. I’ve been here for seven years, developed a home here, a sense of love and community here. So for as long as I have Orlando on my chest, Magic on my chest, I’m going to give it everything I have. So I’m focused on Phoenix tomorrow and getting that win.”
If Gordon isn’t traded prior to the Magic’s matchup with the Suns at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, with tipoff just 18 hours before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, he will almost certainly be taking the court in an Orlando Magic uniform for the final time.
“Anytime I can have a jersey on, I’m playing it like it’s my last game,” he said when asked about the possibility of it being his final game with the Magic. “So anytime I get a chance to play ball, I’m going to play like it’s my last game period. So, that’s how I’m going to play tomorrow night’s game.”