“I’m just happy that I found a new home”


For days leading up to the trade deadline, Aaron Gordon sat on proverbial pins and needles.

Would the Magic comply with his trade request? Was he going to Portland where he’d pair with Damian Lillard as a rim-rocking forward? Was he the player that would finally get the Celtics on track this season? Would Denver be willing to move one of its prized young prospects – R.J. Hampton – and a future first-round pick in order to trade for him?

“It’s been real stressful,” Gordon said Saturday at his introductory news conference after the Nuggets decided that, yes, the versatile defender was worth the Magic’s asking price.

“It’s a huge relief to be a part of a great organization,” he said. “I’m just happy that I found a new home. It was tough. I was just so ready to pick up my phone from my agent. Any call I would get, regardless of who it was, I was thinking I was being traded.”

Gordon, who’s currently living at a hotel but has plans to search for an apartment (or even a house?) soon, couldn’t hide his excitement after Thursday’s blockbuster deal. He grinned at the prospect of catching lobs from Nikola Jokic. He got animated when thinking about the playoff battles that await in just a few short months.

Gordon didn’t seem fazed by the logistical nightmare of uprooting from Orlando, the only NBA home he’s ever known, because of what a fresh start in Denver means to him.

“Right now, I’ll be comfortable when I get my shoes on and I step out on the floor,” he said.

Translation: for now, basketball is what matters. Amid all the background research the Nuggets did before agreeing to the trade, the constant theme of Gordon’s competitive edge kept coming up. Wanting to guard opponents’ best players. Craving the chance to be in a competitive environment.

In seven years, Gordon played in just one playoff series. (He was hurt when the Magic took on the Bucks in the Bubble last postseason). While still with the Magic, Gordon was asked about his trade request and cited years of losing as a primary factor.

Upon the move to Denver, Gordon will immediately be thrust into a brighter spotlight than he’s ever been before. Sure, he’ll be more supporting actor than leading star. But what player on a championship team doesn’t sacrifice?

The Nuggets didn’t make this move, and trade for three-time NBA champion JaVale McGee, only to get bounced in the first round.

“It feels great,” Gordon said. “Being able to play meaningful games just allows me to go all out every night. I expect nothing less than to win. That expectation and that pressure is something that I love.”

Between easy smiles and grins, Gordon seemed relieved. Asked for his advice on where the Magic should go following their fire-sale, he suggested they stay with one vision, maintain consistency in scheme and staff while trying to establish something from the ground up.

It’s what the Nuggets have done in the six years Nuggets coach Michael Malone and president Tim Connelly have been at the helm together. Asked specifically how he’d benefit from a change of scenery, Gordon was honest.

“A lot has to do with the team, the pieces, the coaching staff, the organization,” he said. “I think the style of play fits me a lot better. I think I can help a lot of the guys out around here with my play as well. I think I’m gonna benefit just from getting a re-start, just refreshing with a new coach and some new players.”

The Nuggets are banking that they snared an elite two-way player, with the potential to grow on the defensive end and someone who can benefit from a new environment. Gordon didn’t gloss over the shift in expectations and roles when moving to a team with title aspirations.



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