The NBA locker room is a strange place for reporters. For the sake of this exercise, I’m referring to myself as a reporter. Yes, giggle giggle. We head in there, wait around for a few minutes while dudes shower and then get dressed. Most of us crowd around one or two guys. Two or three of us ask a question. Everyone attempts not to look around too much. Some break off from the pack and get interviews with a specific player one on one.
It has all the comfort of showing up at the house of a guy you see occasionally walking his dog on your block immediately after he gets home from work. He wants to unwind, you know each other well enough that you both recognize the other, but by no means do either of you really want to be talking. He certainly doesn’t at least. And imagine he had a bad day. And then imagine you had to ask him why he made that day bad and what he learned from it or what he could do different tomorrow. It’s all a bit insane, but this is the world we live in.
Anyway, it’s not all bad. I’ve never come across a player that was much of a jerk. The Milwaukee Bucks bring in a professional type, that’s for sure. Kudos to them and kudos to the guys for understanding what might be the worst part of their job, talking to us. So it could be a lot worse. And occasionally, it’s downright funny.
Last season, I can’t recall if it was shortly before or shortly after or the very day that the Bucks were eliminated from the playoffs, but Drew Gooden had a moment that Bucks fans would probably describe as a Drew Gooden moment. Gooden was telling reporters a story about having previously eliminated from the playoffs. Gooden’s a great interview – he’s very willing to talk, good natured and honest. He gives the impression that he’s very good with people and a smart fella in general.
He shared a memory of one season when he finished just a half game out of the final playoff spot while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. That was tough for him to swallow. Now there’s a crowd around him, and it would be in poor taste for anyone to point out to Drew that it was mathematically impossible for a team to finish a half game out of the playoffs.
A moment later, the group of reporters move on to their next target and I’m looking back at Gooden when I see Mike Dunleavy laughing. He tells Gooden it’s impossible to finish a half game out of the playoffs. Undeterred, Gooden tells him he remembers it and it was a half game. Dunleavy continues to laugh and shake his head. He appears to want to explain teh logistics of the situation, but he stops. Gooden can see his hesitation and insists that he Googles it. Dunleavy says he will, gives one final chuckle and heads out the door.
The whole scene had me recalling a quote from Dunleavy last season after Gooden’s triple double:
“Some nights it’s tragic, some nights it’s magic. Tonight it was magic, with a little tragic sprinkled in.”
Gooden’s fun. Gooden’s maddening. Gooden’s a trooper. He was asked to do a lot last season and he did the best he could. Defending Dwight Howard certainly wasn’t what he envisioned when he signed with Milwaukee in the summer of 2010. He thought he’d be lined up next to Andrew Bogut and occasionally filling in behind him at the five. Last season, he was pretty much a full time center.
If nothing else, that made the Bucks very aware of how important plenty of front court depth is. With Sam Dalembert and Joel Przybilla, along with a collection of lengthy young bigs, on the roster, we probably won’t see too much of Gooden guarding some of the better centers in the league this year. But we’ll see him do what he always does: pick and pop, grab some rebounds, make some exciting plays and leave everyone exasperated.
That’s the Drew Gooden experience. He said on media day that he was willing to play fewer minutes at this point in his career, as wins are what motivates him now. So long as the Bucks are winning, it sounds like Gooden will be a happy camper in whatever role he plays. The Bucks would surely love him to play a role in giving them a nightly rebounding advantage, as he’s often been a terrific rebounder. He didn’t rebound quite as much last season, with a career low 13.6% rebound rate, but in fewer minutes against less imposing competition, that could bounce back up to his career rate of 16.2% pretty easily.
His last two seasons have been his worst as far as field goal percentage goes too. He’s been shooting more and more long jumpers, including threes. He took 55 threes last season, more than he’s ever taken in his career. The Bucks are relying on him to be a threat for Brandon Jennings and the other guards as a pop option in the pick and roll game and that’s resulted in a lot of attempts from 16-23 feet for Gooden. He shoots around 42% from that distance, which isn’t bad all things considered, but illustrates how difficult and ultimately unrewarding shots from that distance are for 6-10 players who aren’t particularly adept at shooting.
Of course, Gooden has really been able to show off his passing skill over the past two seasons, partially because he’s operating with the ball in his hands from long range much more often. If he pops after a pick, he can pump fake and drive and defenders have to honor his shot fake. When he drives, he’s shown the vision to dump the ball off to cutters. Or he just chucks the pass from deep to a teammate at the basket like in the video above. THIS IS WHAT IS APPEALING ABOUT DREW GOODEN ON OFFENSE AND WHY HE’S SO FRUSTRATING!
The cool and unique things Gooden does derive from the things he does that drive us all crazy.
And that’s the most Drew Gooden thing of all time.