Where do we go from here? It's actually pretty straightforward.
Gordon becomes a restricted free agent when this season ends. At that time, he'll have three options. The first two go as follows:
(1) sign an offer sheet with another team
(2) agree to a new contract with the Hornets
If Gordon signs the offer sheet of another team, the Hornets have full matching rights; if they met the signing team's offer sheet, Gordon becomes a Hornet under the terms of that new deal. This happens relatively often. Most recently, the Golden State Warriors signed DeAndre Jordan to a lucrative offer sheet this past offseason, and the Los Angeles Clippers opted to match.
The maximum number of years another team could offer Eric Gordon is four years, $58M, an important figure. This is lower than the maximum four year salary of $62M New Orleans could have offered yesterday. Additionally, as owners of Gordon's Bird Rights, the Hornets would also have the option of offering the additional fifth year that no other team could. Keep in mind that a team may only offer one five-year deal within the current CBA period which expires in 2017.
Essentially, if Gordon was refusing to sign anything less than the 4 year, $58M figure yesterday, the breakdown in negotiations made perfect sense. The single advantage that negotiating an extension before the deadline provided was the opportunity to sign Gordon for below market value. It would have made minimal sense to offer him more than that, without at least allowing the market to dictate his true price over the summer.
So now we wait.
I'll reiterate once more that yesterday's result should in no way be taken as a sign that Gordon does not want to play in New Orleans long term. He and his agent simply believe that he's worth close to a full max deal (an idea I fully agree with) which is entirely reasonable.
But I'd be remiss to end this without mentioning the final option, of course:
(3) sign a one year qualifying offer with the Hornets, become an unrestricted FA in 2013
In this scenario, Gordon sacrifices millions and millions of dollars and long term financial security to make a mad dash out of the city. If it sounds farfetched, it's because it is. If the Hornets want Gordon this summer (and they will), the two sides will almost assuredly work things out.
Yesterday assured two things: the Hornets won't get a cut-rate deal for Gordon, and we'll have to live with that little lingering uncertainty in the backs of our minds for a bit longer.
As fans of a 3-15 team that has no owner, I have a hunch we'll get by.