NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The New Orleans Hornets decided against making any late-hour roster moves before Thursday's NBA trade deadline, meaning that for now they are sticking with expensive but fragile shooting guard Eric Gordon.
The next chance for the franchise to continue rebuilding comes this summer, when the team changes names to the Pelicans, and can work to strengthen its roster through trades, the draft and free agency.
Hornets general manager Dell Demps declined, as usual, to discuss any details of trade talks he has had, but did shed some light on the reason he decided against making a deal when he spoke by phone to The Associated Press.
"I like our young team and our core," Demps said. "I look forward to seeing them grow together." Heading into Thursday night's games, the Hornets were tied for the Western Conference's second-worst record at 19-36, 10 1/2 games out of a playoff spot with 27 games left.
The club is building on a young nucleus featuring top overall draft choice Anthony Davis and fifth-year forward Ryan Anderson, the team's top scorer. However, the 2011 acquisition of Gordon has yet to pay off. Knee problems have made Gordon unreliable, and made the four-year, $58 million contract he signed last summer a burden.
Gordon appeared in only nine games during the 2011-12 season, during which he first tried to rehabilitate his right knee without surgery for about a month before electing last February to have a procedure done. This season, Gordon has been productive when he plays, averaging 16.6 points, second most on the club.
However, he has appeared in only 19 of New Orleans' 55 games this season. He missed the first 29 games while rehabilitating his knee from a setback during the summer, and since his return has been a healthy scratch in the second of back-to-back games, mostly in an effort to avoid any further problems with his knee.
There is a possible upside to the Hornets' cautious approach to Gordon's playing time, given the team's exceedingly long odds of making the 2013 playoffs. If Gordon is able to finish out the regular season without reinjuring himself, and if continues to be a scoring threat when he does play, that would give Demps more flexibility in deciding whether to include Gordon in roster moves over the summer.
The Hornets, who lost in Cleveland on Wednesday night and next play at home Friday night against Dallas, did not have practice on Thursday, so coach Monty Williams and his players were not available to comment on the team's decision not to make any deals by Thursday's 3 p.m. (Eastern) trade deadline. The Hornets are one of the youngest teams in the NBA.
Three of their regulars - Davis, 10th overall draft choice Austin Rivers and backup point guard Brian Roberts - are all in their first NBA seasons (though Roberts has played professionally overseas). Other than veteran guard Roger Mason Jr., no one on the roster has more than four full years of NBA experience.
Davis, who won a college national title with Kentucky, and then an Olympic gold medal with the U.S. team in London last summer, is averaging 12.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. Starting point guard Greivis Vasquez, now in his fourth season out of Maryland, has emerged as a strong candidate for the NBA's most improved player.
He's averaging 13.8 points and 9.4 assists. Anderson, who was the NBA's most improved player with Orlando last season, is now the Hornets' leading scorer, averaging 16.7 points and leading the league in 3-pointers made with 160.