“I Want The Ball”
“I WANT THE BALL”
In Memphis Drew Gooden was considered a bust, a joke… a player that could not play at this level at any consistent position. He was trapped in a system he could never succeed in. In the his seven games since being acquired at the trade deadline ***image4:right*** by the Orlando Magic Drew has set out to prove everyone wrong, averaging 18.4 points and 12.1 rebounds per game, and doing it with intensity and passion. Magic Head Coach Doc Rivers offers that Drew’s rebounding reminds him of Dennis Rodman saying “He can really rebound. He rebounds out of his space. He goes far out of his area; where you don’t think he can get to it… The ability to get to the ball, and keep it alive.” To look at Drew off the court the Rodman likeness is true, he doesn’t seem like the player he is on the court and does carry himself much like Dennis did in his pre-freak years, very quiet very reserved. When he steps on the court, he becomes a much different player, extreme passion and energy, and tenaciousness that he never had a chance to really show in Memphis. If you ask him about it he’ll tell you flat out “I am the type of guy that likes to shut people up. There was a lot of talk going on that I can’t play the 3 or I can’t play the 4, I was in a position where I couldn’t prove myself, now I am just letting all of my frustrations out.” Since arriving in Orlando in a trade that didn’t immediately set well with teammates, Gooden and Gordan Giricek have proven to be the missing pieces bringing both offense and defense to a very one dimensional Magic club that now has another consistent scorer in Giricek and a true low post threat in Gooden. Drew’s rebounding has been the biggest key, asked about his approach to rebounding Gooden offers “I want the ball. I just want it. I don’t know what it is, it’s addictive, I just want the basketball. When it comes off the rim I just want it.” Teammate Shawn Kemp offers “There is no doubt about it, Drew has helped us out. Gordan has helped us out also. Sometimes you make trades, and they either work for you or they don’t work for you. And this trade here has definitely benefited not just the team but the whole organization. They got two quality guys and it’s a joy to play with them, they are both young, they are both athletic, both are very positive young men and that is exactly what we needed.” At 7-3 in their last 10 games it does seem like the Magic did get the missing pieces and the addition of Chris Whitney from the waiver wire didn’t hurt either. At this pace and with this roster the Magic became something more than a middle tier player, now they are a legit contender in the playoffs, and Drew Gooden who was lost in Memphis may move into the Rookie of the Year race, especially seeing how Phoenix and Amare Stoudamire have begun to fade from their early season runs, and Yao Ming and the Rockets remain painfully inconsistent, which brings the ROY spotlight to Caron Butler in Miami and Drew Gooden in Orlando.
Let’s be fundamentally clear… Jason Kidd is not going to San Antonio. It’s fun to talk about, and clearly J.Kidd has given the media more than enough ammo to make the assumption that it’s a two horse race this July when Kidd can openly explore his free agent options. ***image3:left*** Yes, the Spurs could clear enough cap room to be a player for Jason’s services and yes Jason has hinted that playing with Tim Duncan would be a dream, but does anyone believe Jason Kidd moves from the largest media market in the League to one of the smallest? Does anyone believe that Rod Thorn will not give Jason a full boat with regards to a contract, which San Antonio couldn’t match? The reality in the free agency discussions is Jason is not unhappy in New Jersey; in fact it’s very much the opposite. If Rod Thorn can become a player for some of the other free agents out there Jason’s window narrows significantly. There is honestly a better chance of Duncan coming to New Jersey than Kidd going to San Antonio, but neither move is really going to happen. If Kidd is going to make his “I want a championship” speech, then San Antonio isn’t the spot for him, it would be somewhere like Indiana or Orlando with enough weapons in place to contend with a team like LA, Sacramento or Dallas in the West. Or more shockingly would be to head west to a team like the Lakers that might be willing to gamble on Taxes for Titles. While we’re dreaming why not Kidd to Seattle with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis… Kidd has a lot of options, but the reality is players don’t leave huge amounts of money on the table and New Jersey will give Jason anything he wants and at the end of the day New Jersey is just as close to a championship as San Antonio, and they can pay him more. He’ll still shop, because he’s a smart person, but the odds are far greater that he stays than he leaves, and if he leaves there are more options to consider than just San Antonio.
AGE LIMIT OF 20 COMING
The NBA and its Players have began exchanging topics that will be included in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Players have made it clear that the Escrow Tax is going to have to go, the owners are steadfast that changing mediums of cost control will stay and likely improve. The NBA is playing politics offering some concessions on the cash side for some changes that the union has long opposed, and one of them is a minimum age, likely going to be 20. ***image2:right*** Meaning a player must be 20 years of age in the year the draft takes place. Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated quotes an unnamed Western Conference GM saying, “I’m hearing from a lot of agents that it’s going to happen”. Marc Cornstein who recently won the fight to get his 17-year-old client Darko Milicic into the 2003 Draft Class says he isn’t surprised at all. The common preface to this discussion is that the NBA is tiring of seeing it’s draft class consist of no-name project guys that may or may not pan out, and in a guaranteed salary situation they are not seeing proven talent entering each year and improving the quality of the league rather for every Kobe Bryant, who explodes, there are two players like Kwame Brown and Eddy Curry who fail to impact their teams positively. The NBA would rather see those players develop before the draft so more proven, more marketable guys are selected each year and clearly the NCAA isn’t going to cry about this kind of decision. The problem with an NBA age limit is its very theme is not constitutional, so its structure may never hold up under legal scrutiny. It’s clearly a subject the NBA is going to push through and the Players who want concessions on the economic side may buckle to the pressure especially considering for every High Schooler admitted to the League, generally means a veteran stays home, and veterans help shape these decisions.
JUST DOING MY JOB
I rarely use this space for personal pontification, because frankly in the scheme of things who I am really?… In this case I wanted to discuss a few subjects and being the chief editor, I can squeeze this through.
GARY WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? This week a member of the HOOPSWORLD staff had their chance to cover their first game as media, I always enjoy this process because I have become quite jaded in the entire “game” of covering games, so watching a new guy get his feet wet is always a treat.***image1:right*** Our guy’s first interview was Pat Garrity of the Magic who was more than gracious enough to spend a few minutes with the rookie and really charged him up. So off to the visitors locker room where a newly acquired Gary Payton sat at his locker, our guy feeling confident went up to Gary and politely asked Gary for a few minutes.. So what does the Glove do, blasts our guy with comments about you can’t do nothing for me, go away. So while I instructed our rookie not to go there – I will… Gary, what the hell is wrong with you?… Your status in this league is not based solely on your ego, its based mainly on people in the press that paint you in a positive way, that vote you onto teams and say things about you that make you marketable to your sponsors and to the teams that sign you. On several occasions in my travels I have watched you be a complete jerk to those that simply want a moment of your time to try and understand you, when your out of the league counting your money that the media helped you get remember, there is nothing you can do for me, but I promise you that the media will remember all the shitty things you’ve done to them especially on your way down your career.
MINOR LEAGUERS: I recently returned from a West Coast road trip and had the joy of sitting for 3 ½ hours in Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, facing snow delays. I had the chance to meet a couple of minor league baseball players who were on their way to Florida for spring training, both were Single A guys with dreams of simply making the team. I have to comment how refreshing it was to see both guys chasing their dreams. Neither had two quarters to rub together, and commented that they made $1000 a month playing in the minors, one was on his 3rd season, one was heading into his first. Both had a passion about their tasks, and both had stars in the eyes talking about the “pros” and their contracts. Good luck guys, it was a treat to spend some time with you.
Here are some of the random stories from the week…
- HAWKS LOSE NAZR: According to printed reports out of Atlanta, center Nazr Mohammed will not play against the Raptors tonight apparently because of a fracture in his right foot. Hawks coach Terry Stotts said “In all likelihood, he is out for the rest of the season,” Mohammed has played in 35 games this season averaging 12.7 minutes per game, 4.6 points and 3.70 rebounds.
- ADDING BIMBO: According to the Boston Globe’s Shira Springer, Bimbo Coles will sign with the Boston Celtics this morning for a prorated 10-year-plus veteran minimum worth approximately $247,200. Although the league will pick up 60 percent of the contract, the new Celtic owners will end up paying approximately $600,000 for Coles’ services given the pending luxury tax. Coles arrived in Boston last night and had his team physical. He will practice with the Celtics this afternoon.
- FINED: According to The News Tribune’s Frank Hughes, SuperSonics coach Nate McMillan was fined $7,500 by the NBA as was Jerome James who was docked $5,000 for comments they made criticizing the officiating following Seattle’s loss to Utah on Wednesday night. McMillan was fined after he spent the entire five-minute postgame news conference berating the officiating crew of Nolan Fine, Ronnie Nunn and Bill Spooner for what he felt was a disparity in foul calls. James was fined for saying, “Whenever you come to Utah , it is five of us against eight of them.”