The NBA Draft came and went last month, and openly gay basketball player Derrick Gordon didn't get a phone call. That wasn't news. Gordon hadn't been invited to a workout by any team, and his college statistics simply didn't put him on the draft boards of any NBA teams.
Gordon, whether he were openly gay, closeted or straight, is exactly where virtually everyone thought he would be.
Well, kind of.
Gordon is an interesting fit in professional basketball. Finding "the right team" is critical. He's not some scoring phenom who has thus far demonstrated an ability to walk onto the court and produce points at will. In a league where the importance of posting high scores is always at a premium, Gordon has some things to prove.
People in and around the NBA I spoke to pointed to one main element as his current Achilles heel: his jump shot. At 6-foot-3, Gordon can play only the guard position in the NBA. He isn't a point guard, meaning he will have to rely on his shooting ability to get into the league.
His overall shooting percentage his last two seasons - at UMass and at Seton Hall - was .404, not even on the radar screen for the top guards in the country. His 3-point percentage in that period was a dismal .242; Last season, his best behind the arc, he was well outside the top 100 in NCAA Div. 1.
His career free throw percentage of just over 65% wouldn't have put him near the top 250 in D1 last season.
Gordon's problem is he did not demonstrate an ability to shoot the basketball while he was in college. Because the numbers from college aren't where NBA teams want them to be, he has to now prove he can shoot.
What does he bring to a team? Defense. Grit. Determination. Some of the hallmarks of a great college player. He works hard, and he's been working out hard since the end of the season. "He's in the best shape I've ever seen him," one person told me.
He's also working with a coach on that jump shot. He understands his shooting numbers could have been much better in college, and he's determined to demonstrate improvement.
The question now is, when? When will he get the chance to demonstrate his ability to shoot and contribute?
As I said, so far Gordon hasn't gotten a single invitation for a workout. That seems odd to more people than just me. One person I spoke to said that to not even to bring him in as "fodder" for a workout with other players is odd (that invitation, of course, would also give Gordon the chance to impress scouts). Gordon's strength is defense. If you watched him his final season with Seton Hall, you know he disrupts plays and offenses. He's a trouble-maker on the court in the best sense of the term. That no team thought it would be a good idea to bring him in, even to test some of the players they did have on their draft boards, is... odd.
It certainly makes me wonder if homophobia is at play. Even the Golden State Warriors, who reside in the city where he's currently living and have an openly gay president, couldn't bring themselves to bring him in. Gordon isn't a slam-dunk in the pros by any stretch of the imagination. But not one single team found a reason to check him out for themselves? It's not proof-positive of some conspiracy, but it rings a little... odd.
That he hasn't gotten any invitations to play in any pro summer leagues also puts him behind the proverbial eight-ball.
If Gordon is going to play professional basketball in 2016, it's increasingly likely he will have to head overseas (though the NBA D-League is still a possibility). To that end, he will be attending the Las Vegas combine in the next week -- Finally, the opportunity to showcase his skills and improved shooting.
At the Combine will be representatives from the NBA D-League and teams or leagues in over two dozen other countries. Gordon will get his opportunity to shine, and if he does well I would be surprised if someone didn't give him a shot.
If he doesn't attract any interest from any teams in any countries, that will certainly raise some eyebrows. People understand him not getting drafted or signed to an NBA team after the draft. But not a single workout? Not even interest in working him out? And if he does well this weekend, no interest from even a team in Bulgaria?
Gordon should be playing professional basketball somewhere.
We'll be watching this one closely.