March 04, 2009
(Did Drew even know he was supposed to stand in front of the white sheet?)
This is going to sound very strange.
This is assuming, of course, that his groin injury isn't too serious. Now, all we've heard about the guy recently is that his groin injury is quite serious, serious enough to keep him out for the rest of the year, but let's work as if he should be at full strength by the weekend.
With all things equal on the health front, regardless of how healthy he actually is, let's try to crack this nut. And he is a nutter. Boy, is he ever.
Gooden works hard. And just because he's about to join his sixth team in a seven-year career, it doesn't mean he needs to be riled into contributing. Motivation, in whatever form, is not the issue. The question that keeps popping up is whether or not Gooden is cerebral enough to make a positive contribution to a good or great team. Or even a bad team.
And that's because the guy makes odd, odd mistakes. He's not lazy, but he does look the part at times, whiffing defensively over and over again. And yet, he'll put up 20 and 13 every so often while utilizing an undersized frame that shouldn't be tall or strong enough to compile those numbers. To say nothing of his limited athleticism.
So how is this overachiever constantly underachieving? Is it smarts, or motivation?
Well, and I'm truly sorry for going down this path, he does constantly look the part of a guy who wants to help, but can't fully grasp the entire plan of attack. Especially defensively. Gooden is constantly out of position defensively, his work with the Bulls earlier this season (in spite of his "glue guy" rep) was a huge hindrance to the team, mainly because he was constantly hurting Chicago on that end both in terms of one-on-one matchups and weak side work.
But how does that explain the way he was able to pile up points and boards in limited minutes, with few plays called for him, and with bigger and stronger bigs in his way? How does that explain the way he's able to use his head in piling up the points and caroms, without having his number called, while appearing to not take his team out of its planned offensive flow?
Again, the effort was there. Yes, he was shooting for a contract. Literally, as the 20-footers kept clanging and clanging. It was a horrible, low-percentage shot that rarely went in and always hurt Chicago, partially because it meant Gooden never got to the free throw line.
But he never acted the part of a basketball dope, saying the right things in the locker room, dressing well, essentially blowing away the image of the rookie who -- in 2002 -- seemed unaware that Memphis was actually in the state of Tennessee.
Dopes don't usually dress as intriguingly as he does, or as fashionably. And eccentrics don't don the sort of facial hair he does. Nor do fashionistas. Because, while his goatee may seem strange or unorthodox, it seems more in common with a bored frat boy than a crazed boffin, two steps away from a cure for cancer.
In fact, the only sorts that tend to utilize that sort of "I've let it go this far, pay attention to me, please" facial hair tend to be swilling Pepsi in front of a computer screen, too unimaginative to cut it but too keen to not look like their boss. While they plunk away at some online shoot ‘em up video contest.
So we've spent nearly 600 words detailing how much we don't know about Drew Gooden, yay internet, but what can he do with the Spurs?
Well, assuming he can play at full strength, he can help this team to another championship. Seriously.
Gooden can score in the low post. And Tim Duncan really hasn't had a guy like that alongside him, ever. The closest he ever had was Nazr Mohammed, in the 2005 championship run, and I'm aware that Duncan played alongside David Robinson from 1997 to 2003.
Robinson, you'll hopefully remember, was pretty inefficient as a low post guy following the broken foot that kept him out of nearly the entire 1996-97 season. Though the Spurs tried to force feed him the ball down there during Duncan's rookie year, he was essentially a high post demon and defensive mainstay for the remainder of his career. And when the Spurs realized this during the lockout year, treating Duncan as the offensive star, the championships starting piling up.
Duncan's older now, and though he's still a far more preferable option in the low post than someone like Drew Gooden, he could still use a break now and again. And that break can come with Duncan on the court, mind you, playing Robinson's old role. While Gooden hooks (not the shot, but the illegal arm move) his way to quick position and a series of interior scores.
Assuming he's healthy. Assuming his head's on straight. Assuming his defense doesn't drive Coach Pop mad. Assuming he's not trying to reverse roles, head to the high post, and ignore Duncan in the post while he chucks up a low percentage jumper from the top of the key. And assuming Coach Pop plays the guy over Matt Bonner for long stretches, a move that could really help his team.
Gregg Popovich doesn't even need to sit Bonner. San Antonio's defense is stout enough, so run Bonner at small forward for stretches, keep him on the strong side with Gooden in the low post, and help him defensively. This could work. This, with Ginobili eventually returning and Duncan's brilliance keeping everything together, could be huge.
I mean that. Gooden has all the tools to be the sort of player that could push this team over the top. And his low post abilities and rebounding give the Spurs an option that they've just never had around Duncan. Guys like Bonner (shooting) or Fabricio Oberto (high post passing, defense) or Rasho Nesterovic (underrated defense, passing) were fantastic in their role as "center," but Gooden can bring something completely different.
It's up to Drew. He has the talent and the touch to be a missing piece, and he's proven he can come through with the effort needed to stay on the court for 40 minutes. It's up to him to keep his game consistent, and play like a Spur.