Posts Tagged ‘Drew Gooden’

Beal plays older, Gooden looks younger to lift Wizards over Pacers

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com


VIDEO: Bradley Beal scores 14 fourth-quarter points to put Pacers away in Game 1

INDIANAPOLIS – Young and Done.

It’s not a law firm. It’s shorthand for Bradley Beal and Drew Gooden, difference-makers for the Washington Wizards in their Game 1 victory over Indiana in the Eastern Conference semifinals series that began Monday night at cranky-again Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Unlikely difference-makers, frankly, if you go by their career arcs and how neither of them would be anyone’s Goldilocks choice to wreak havoc on the Pacers. Beal is too young – eight weeks shy of his 21st birthday still, after two years on the job as the Wizards’ smooth-shooting off-guard. Even for a guy mature beyond his years and a player who led his team in scoring (19.8 ppg) in the first round against Chicago, each mile of the postseason road is supposed to be tougher, the task too much for kids.

Gooden, on the other hand, was too done, stirred from his Barcalounger at the end of February by Washington’s offer of a 10-day contract that begat a second, then finally a deal to finish the season. The 32-year-old journeyman (nine teams, 12 seasons) was a backup NBA big man in theory more than in practice when the Wizards called. Nearly 11 months had lapsed after his final appearance with Milwaukee late in his little-used (16 games) 2012-13 season.

So there they were, taking over the opener and taking apart Indiana with the sort of unexpected performances the playoffs throw at us just often enough to keep everyone coming back.

Beal scored 14 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter and six of them on a pair of 3-pointers that doused any comeback glimmer in the Pacers’ eyes. Paul George completed a 3-point play that made it 82-76 with 7:41 to go, only to have the Wizards find Beal in the left corner. He reached high and shot over Indiana forward Luis Scola with the shot clock about to fire and the lead was back to nine.

It was 87-78 about 80 seconds later when Beal stole the ball from Lance Stephenson and got it back from teammate John Wall. He drained another one to send the Pacers into a timeout, and it was already too late.

“The way I think about it is, I’m 20 years old,” Beal said. “Playing in the playoffs is something I’ve always dreamed about. So why not embrace it? Why not accept that challenge and just have fun with it? That’s all I’m doing man, I’m just having fun on a great team.”

Said Gooden: “I’ve got a nickname for him – Young Pro. When other people ask me about his work ethic, I say, ‘Y’know, he’s always in the gym working on his game.’ So tonight every time he hit a shot, I told him, ‘That’s why you put the work in.’ He was hitting shots with the shot clock going down, with guys in his face, step-backs, three’s … whenever he shoots it, not just me but the whole team knows it’s going in.”

While Beal was breaking the Pacers’ backs, Gooden was crushing their will. On a night when their All-Star (and richly paid) center Roy Hibbert was back in his zero-points, zero-rebounds funk, Gooden came strong with 12 points and 13 rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. It was a performance ripe for one of those shrugs he gave back in March, when he burned Brooklyn and Sacramento with his work inside and even out a few from the arc. Washington crushed the home team on the boards and ate from it (19 second-chance points).

One of the fans who heckled Beal near the end over a free throw he airballed also got on Gooden. “He told me, ‘I thought you retired,’ ” Gooden said. “I said, ‘I did. But they pulled me back in.’ “

Gooden, who might have figured his nights like Monday were long gone, said he had a role model for what he’s doing now. “I used a guy by the name of Tim Thomas as motivation,” he said. “There was a season where, I think, he left Chicago, went to New York and got waived and was just sitting out for a couple months, three months. Then Amar’e Stoudemire got hurt and he came into Phoenix and had a great playoffs, and almost led them into the Western Conference finals.

“So I used that as motivation that it can be done.”

Actually, Thomas – the No. 7 pick in 1997 – had been dealt to Chicago at the start of 2005-06. But after three appearances, the Bulls drydocked him. Sitting at home, waived in March, he did what Gooden recalled, refurbishing his career briefly by averaging 15.1 points and hitting 44.4 percent of his 3-pointers in 20 postseason games with the Suns.

While Beal, in his precociousness, and Gooden, in his resiliency, might have caught some NBA fans unaware in Game 1, they did precisely what Wizards coach Randy Wittman wanted by staying in the moment. With all the scouting, all the analytics, all the walk-throughs and the practices, you’d think all spontaneity would be wrung from the playoffs.

And then, with a couple of performances like theirs, you find yourself watching and being tempted to do one of these yourself.

Morning Shootaround — March 8


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played March 7

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Pacers’ woes start from within | Other side to that coin was Rockets’ paybackPhil Jax rumors blow up in New York | Pierce sees Rondo as the next, well, him | Noah bored by whines about “tampering”

No. 1: Pacers’ woes start from within – To hear Indiana coach Frank Vogel, his team’s claim on the NBA’s best record this season put a target on the Pacers’ backs, turning them into every opponent’s favorite target. While that might be true to some extent, the slump in which Paul George, Roy Hibbert, David West & Co. find themselves now – after suffering their third consecutive loss in the 112-86 rout at Houston Friday – owes more to what Indiana isn’t doing at either end of the court the way it had through the schedule’s first four months. Only the Rockets and the Los Angeles Clippers have avoided a three-game losing streak now, with the Pacers turning to post-game meetings and some mirror-gazing to check theirs, as ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst wrote from Houston:

The Pacers have now lost three in a row for the first time all season and fallen back into a tie with the Heat in the loss column for the best record. But the chase for that top seed, which has been a Pacers priority all season, was not on their minds as midnight passed in that quiet locker room.

“We haven’t talked about the [No. 1 seed] in awhile,” Hibbert said. “We just need to win games at this point. Something has got to change. Something is going to be addressed.”

There were warning signs even when the Pacers were on a five-game winning streak recently as they had to work harder than expected to beat bottom-feeders like the Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks.

“Every team we play is playing above themselves,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “Our guys can talk about being the hunted but it’s a different thing to feel it. These teams are coming at us with great force and we’re going to have to rise to the challenge.”

Teams running up the score against the Pacers is not normal. But over the last 10 games their league-best defense has not been league best.

They are allowing 46 percent shooting and 100 points per game in that span. In the first 40 games of the season when they distanced themselves from the rest of the league, they allowed just 41 percent shooting and just 88 points a game.

“We have to get back to what the Indiana Pacers used to be,” George said. “When teams came to play us, they knew it was going to be a long night.”

***

No. 2: Other side to that coin was Rockets’ payback – Twenty-six points isn’t 34, the number Houston’s players had in mind as a way to avenge their 33-point smackdown by Indiana in Indianapolis in December. The Rockets “only” pushed their lead to as many as 32 before settling for the final margin. But as Jonathan Feigen wrote in his Houston Chronicle blog, team and individual payback was very much in play, as the league’s hottest team in calendar year 2014 starts to sniff its potential:

“That’s all we talked about, every time out, every possession, how they blew us out,” Dwight Howard said. “We didn’t want that to happen. We wanted to get payback.”

Yet, as the Rockets put together a stretch [James] Harden would call their best on both ends of the floor, he could have been thinking of much more than just the third-quarter run to a 30-point lead.

“Always wanted to get back against them,” Harden said after scoring 16 of his 28 points in the knockout punch of a third quarter. “The third quarter was probably the best I’ve seen us play offense and defense in one quarter. We were rolling. These last weeks we’ve been rolling on both ends.”

At that moment, as the Pacers called time out the rout was certain, Harden could have been celebrating his own turnaround against the Pacers. When Harden was done for the night before the third quarter had ended, he had made 10 of 17 shots, including 4 of 7 3s. In his seven previous games against the Pacers, he had made 28.4 percent of his shots, just 24.6 percent in his three games against them with the Rockets.

He could have been thinking off the credibility the Rockets had added to their 2014 rise to a 22-6 record, the NBA’s best since New Year’s, a season-best seven-game home winning streak or their 12-2 record since the start of February when the only losses were in the second half of back-to-backs.

Had he thought of it with the pairing of a win against Heat to go with the blowout of the Pacers, he even could have been marking their season-long dominance of the Eastern Conference in Houston, with the Rockets 14-0 against Eastern Conference teams.

In many ways, however, he might have just enjoyed the clearer-than-ever signs of how much the Rockets have progressed in the months in between.

“We’ve been playing well since the beginning of the New Year,” Harden said. “We kind of got a feel for each other now. We’ve gotten better. We’ve gotten healthy.

“When we hold the ball and let them set up defensively, then they’re great. But if we play fast like we did and make plays for each other, it’s hard to beat.”

***

No. 3: Phil Jax rumors blow up in New York — The man had taken sabbaticals before. He roared off on his motorcycle after helping Chicago win its sixth NBA championship in eight years in 1998 and sat out the following season before acquiescing to coach Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers. He stepped away again in 2004-05 to recharge and get healthy, then came back for six more seasons and two more Lakers championships.

But Phil Jackson is going on three years now off the NBA stage and out of the daily sports spotlight, so it’s totally understandable that he might be getting a little restless. That restlessness might or might not – remember, we’re talking both rumors and Jackson weighing multiple options at this point in his life (age 68) – land him in New York, running or coaching the Knicks. Here’s some of what ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne wrote on the topic:

 Phil Jackson is “ready to go back to work,” a source with knowledge of his thinking told ESPN.com on Friday.

The former Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls coach has spent the last couple of years working to improve his health — which included several surgeries and a successful fight against prostate cancer — and writing a book. But the itch to return to the NBA in some capacity is strong.

While Jackson has made it clear to any team that has approached him that he prefers a front-office role that would allow him to shape and mold a franchise the way Miami Heat president Pat Riley has, he is open to the possibility of coaching for a short period of time if it was necessary in a transition period for a franchise with championship aspirations, the source said.

He would not consider any coaching position that did not have a significant guarantee of personnel power as well, sources said.

***

No. 4: Pierce sees Rondo as the next, well, himPaul Pierce, the beloved forward who returned to Boston again Friday in the jarring black-and-white of the Brooklyn Nets, has seen this Celtics movie before. He knows what it must be like for former teammate Rajon Rondo, who is used to better times and has to endure the losing and no longer sees respect or fear in foes’ faces. But Pierce doesn’t worry about the feisty Celtics playmaker because he sees better days ahead, per A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com:

“They’re a young team,” Pierce said. “They got a mix of some veterans, some young guys developing. They’re only going to get better.”

And a significant part of that improvement in Pierce’s eyes, is point guard Rajon Rondo.

Rondo continues to look more and more like the four time All-Star that he is, and not the player on the mend from a torn right ACL injury in January of last year.

On Friday, he had a team-high 20 points to go with nine assists and seven rebounds.

“Rondo is ready to lead,” Pierce said. “He’s leading them right now, moving them into the next generation of Celtics. Their future is going to be very bright.”

But in order to fully appreciate what awaits them at the end of the journey, first they must navigate a path that, for now, will be difficult when it comes to winning games.

Seeing the big picture when he was a young player in Boston wasn’t easy for Pierce who admits Rondo’s better prepared for what lies ahead than he was.

“Rondo understands,” said Pierce, adding “He understands a little more than I did at the time. When I first got here (in Boston), I was in rebuild mode, made the playoffs and went back to rebuild mode. Same with him (Rondo). He came in, we were rebuilding. We went through a phase where we were winning. Now he’s back in rebuild mode, but he’s still young enough to see it out to still be in his prime. I know the Celtics are going to do whatever it takes, to get back to that top level again.”

***

No. 5: Noah bored by whines of “tampering” – So what if it was true that, at some point during All-Star weekend, Chicago center Joakim Noah teased, suggested or even downright pleaded with New York’s Carmelo Anthony to consider signing with the Bulls this summer rather than the Knicks or the Lakers? If that’s “tampering,” the SEC needs to throw a net over the entire NBA for insider trading violations. After the summer of 2010, when Miami’s Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh came together after huddles and strategy sessions great and small … after the Rockets’ Chandler Parsons inundated Dwight Howard with text messages daily leading up to his choice of Houston over the Lakers … the reports that Noah told Anthony he’d be best off by choosing Chicago seem like so much trash-talking or idle banter. Knicks coach Mike Woodson needs to focus on Xs, Os, Ws and Ls, too, more than on some alleged he-said, he-said distraction. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times addressed some of what seems much ado about nothing:

Noah was asked about the Anthony rumor after the morning shootaround and never denied it, but he chalked it up as nothing more than March gossip.

“What are you talking about, the gossip going on?’’ Noah said.

“You want me to address that? I don’t feel like addressing it. I really have nothing to say.’’

When asked if the story was accurate, Noah said, “Doesn’t matter. What does that have to do with our team now? It doesn’t matter.’’

[Coach Tom] Thibodeau did take exception to Knicks coach Mike Woodson telling a radio station that Noah broke league rules and was tampering.

“You know, legally, nobody can recruit anyone,’’ Woodson said.

“To me, it’s just a bunch of nonsense,’’ Thibodeau said. “We don’t pay any attention to it, just get ready for [the next game]. . . . It’s all nonsense. We’re just concentrating on our next opponent.’’

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Whew! They must be breathing easier in Milwaukee now, knowing that veteran Drew Gooden, on his second 10-day contract with Washington, won’t have vengeance on his mind when the Wizards visit Saturday night for the way the Bucks warehoused him last season (while paying him a whole lot of cash). … If Sam Malone could do it, maybe Paul Pierce could too: Open a bar or restaurant back in Boston when his playing days are over. Pierce was pondering the future Friday night. … Will Saturday’s clash with UNC be Jabari Parker‘s final home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, or might he return for his sophomore year rather than enter the NBA Draft pool? OK, we’ll play along. … Knicks center Tyson Chandler didn’t really mean to mock Kevin Love‘s defense, Chandler said via Twitter a day later. … Patty Mills listened to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich — wise move, Patty — and grabbed 10 rebounds.

‘Amnesty THAT!’ An Amnesty Find Is Rare

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The two-word tweet Kobe Bryant directed at Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban after he grilled Cuban’s team for 38 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in a game last season was priceless. Earlier that week, Cuban suggested that the Lakers should consider amnestying Bryant this offseason as a means for Los Angeles to shrink the enormous luxury-tax bill coming after next season.

The notion was resurrected after Bryant, due to make $30.45 million in 2013-14, tore his Achilles tendon in the third-to-last game of the regular season because of the assumed probability that he will miss a chunk of next season. Of course, the Lakers had no intention to amnesty Bryant by Tuesday’s deadline.

Had they, making him available to a team for dirt cheap, Bryant would have become the first superstar cut loose via the amnesty provision that took effect at the conclusion of the 2011 lockout as part of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Twenty players in all have been waived via the amnesty provision. Three got the news Tuesday, bringing this summer’s amnesty total to five.

The wisdom of the provision is to allow each team the one-time ability to remove a contract from its books. The team must still pay the player’s remaining salary, but it no longer counts against the salary cap or luxury tax.

The amnestied player (who must have been under contract prior to the new CBA) goes through a waiver process with teams under the salary cap granted first crack to acquire the player through a bidding process. The highest bidder wins and signs the player at the bid price with the former team responsible for the balance.

It could provide a cheap way for a team to fill a hole with a serviceable rotation player set free by a team needing financial relief – which was the Miami Heat’s purpose Tuesday in amnestying popular sharpshooter Mike Miller. More often than not, however, teams, naturally, have utilized the amnesty provision to eradicate expensive mistakes or free themselves of players no longer worth their lucrative deals such as waiving disappointing, non-productive players (Darko Milicic, Travis Outlaw), older/high-mileage players (James Posey, Elton Brand) or headcases (Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche).

Of the 15 players amnestied in 2011 and 2012, four (Posey, Charlie Bell, Ryan Gomes and Milicic) were never signed by another team and eight (Arenas, Bell, Josh Childress, Baron Davis, Gomes, Milicic, Posey, Brandon Roy) are currently out of the league. Only five players remain with the teams that signed them through or after the amnesty waiver process, and of those just three — Luis Scola (Phoenix), Blatche (Brooklyn) and Chris “Birdman” Andersen — played significant roles last season.

Of the five players amnestied this summer, the underwhelming Tyrus Thomas has yet to be signed. Drew Gooden, Linas Kleiza and Miller are in the midst of the 48-hour waiver bidding process. Metta World Peace, amnestied by the Lakers, signed a two-year deal with his hometown New York Knicks.

The 6-foot-11 Blatche and the Brooklyn Nets are hands-down the feel-good story of the amnesty provision. Just 26, Blatche’s talent is immense, but so was his penchant for doing dumb things with the dysfunctional Wizards. Fed up, Washington gave up on him. Few teams bit until the Nets figured they had nothing to lose, signing Blatche to a one-year deal for less than $1 million while the Wizards were on the hook for more than $7 million. Blatche emerged as an integral part of the Nets’ return to the playoffs, averaging 10.3 ppg and 5.1 rpg off the bench. Last week Blatche re-signed for a reported two years and $2.9 million.

But Blatche is clearly the exception. The Mavericks hoped to get a steal with their winning bid of $2.1 million for the amnestied Brand, who was due to make $18 million last season with the Philadelphia 76ers. Brand, while well-liked in Dallas, posted his worst statistical season of his career, averaging 7.2 ppg and 6.0 rpg. He recently signed a free-agent deal with Atlanta.

Chauncey Billups, amnestied in 2011 by the Knicks to make room to sign Tyson Chandler, played just 42 total games the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, and recently signed a free-agent deal with the Detroit Pistons. Center Brendan Haywood was nonexistent in Charlotte last season after being amnestied by the Mavs.

And remember the potential Childress had? Amnestied by the Phoenix Suns in 2012, he’s one of the eight players no longer working in the NBA. The amnesty bust list goes on and on.

So who are the 10 teams yet to play their amnesty card, and which players are eligible? Here they are: Atlanta (Al Horford), Boston (Rajon Rondo), Chicago (Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah), Detroit (none), Memphis (Mike Conley, Zach Randolph), New Orleans (none), Oklahoma City (Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant, Nick Collison), Sacramento Kings (John Salmons), San Antonio (Tony Parker) and Utah (none).

But that is now speculation for next summer.

Henson’s Near ‘Triple-Double’ An Aggressive Summer Sign

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LAS VEGAS – A lot can happen in a year, and John Henson only had to glance at the end of the Milwaukee Bucks’ Summer League bench Tuesday for a reminder.

One year ago, Henson’s teammate Larry Sanders was trying to claw his way into a role with the Bucks. His summer work wasn’t all that special, though, and some scouts questioned his long-term viability – not just in Milwaukee but in the NBA – as training camp opened in October.

And then …

“I remember in a preseason game, Cleveland, the switch went on and he just took off,” Henson said.

Sanders’ game blew up in 2012-13 as he became a rebounding and shot-blocking menace in Milwaukee’s middle. He wound up third in balloting for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award and seventh for Defensive Player of the Year, and he’s in Vegas this week waiting for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team mini-camp to which he earned an invitation.

One year can make a huge difference, and Henson is eager to walk in his buddy’s shoes. In the Bucks’ opener Saturday, the 6-foot-11 forward from North Carolina had 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. After missing the next game with a groin strain, Henson nearly got a “triple-double” Tuesday against Golden State – 15 rebounds (nine in the first quarter) with nine points and (gulp) eight turnovers. He blocked three shots again but shot 3-of-10 and got a little sidetracked in physical but fun matchup with the Warriors’ Draymond Green. Their rivalry dates back to college when Green was at Michigan State.

Green, who shot 2-of-12 himself, blamed Golden State teammate Harrison Barnes (another USA camp invitee) for “talking junk” to both Green and Henson to further stoke the matchup. Still, each got something out of it – Green coping with Henson’s length and Henson dealing with Green’s endless summer-league supply of bruising fouls.

“We both shot awful,” Green said. “But he’s always been active. He’s longer than a lot of guys in this league. He uses it well on the defensive end and offensive rebounds. We were able to kind of limit him in the post and he got a few turnovers, but overall I think John’s going to be a very good player.”

Said Henson of Green’s heavy contact: “That’s the summer league. I need that, so it’s cool. Just the physicality and crashing the boards and holding my position on the post. That’s all you can ask for.”

The Bucks are going to be asking Henson for a lot in his second season. He, Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova and raw draftee Giannis Antetokounmpo now form the core of their young front line. Veterans Samuel Dalembert and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute won’t be back, and while the Bucks battled the Warriors, warehoused big man Drew Gooden got shed via the collective bargaining agreement’s amnesty provision.

“Drew is gone? Aw [bleep],” Henson said, learning the news a few minutes after the game. “That’s kind of what’s going on. It’s everybody’s ‘first year’ with a new coach now [Larry Drew]. So we’ve all got to learn new stuff. It’s a new era.”

Henson doesn’t need a Sanders-like switch to flip in his game. His challenge was opportunity – he averaged 16.5 points and 12.9 boards pro-rated to 36 minutes. Problem was, he only had two games in which he played that much (17 points and 25 rebounds at Orlando in April and one week later 28 points and 16 boards at Oklahoma City). He averaged just 13.1 points for coaches Scott Skiles, then Jim Boylan.

This season, under Drew, the minutes should be there.

“He’s really working,” Sanders said. “He’s been working on his body, been working on his game. His awareness is really catching up to his body. So he’s figuring out where he is on defense, getting those boards. I think with experience he’ll keep getting better and better.”

Said Henson: “Some players like Larry, it happens [suddenly].”

He snapped his fingers, and continued: “Some people gradually build up to that level. I think I’m building up. Couple more years in, I hope I can be a force in this league. That’s kind of my goal.”

Gooden: Healthy, Ready … And Inactive Again For The Bucks

Just tell me my role, NBA players say. Heck, a lot of us in everyday life say the same thing in one way or another: Let me know my role. Then I’ll know what expectations I need to meet.

Here is a look at Drew Gooden’s roles for the Milwaukee Bucks the past two seasons:

  • 2011-12: Veteran power forward forced to play center after Andrew Bogut’s left ankle fracture. Rotation guy-turned-full-time starter over the Bucks’ final 41 games, averaging 12.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 29.0 minutes.
  • 2012-13: Inactive-list placeholder and street-clothed afterthought for all 12 Milwaukee games so far. Averaging 0.0 across the board, because he hasn’t played a second.

Gooden has, for all practical purposes, been rendered invisible by coach Scott Skiles’ decision to use him as the odd man out when submitting his active roster each game night. Milwaukee has 15 players but can only have 13 available for game use, and even with Luc Mbah a Moute recovering from knee surgery, the frontcourt still is too crowded.

Skiles called it “a difficult situation, a difficult decision.” “We’ve got Sam and Ersan and John and Ekpe and Larry and Joel and Drew,” the coach said, rattling off the first names of Dalembert, Ilyasova, Henson, Udoh, Sanders, Przybilla and Gooden. “We’ve got seven big guys, and we like ‘em all. So it’s a tough spot to be in.”

It’s not as if Gooden has been outplayed in practice – obviously, there are no game performances to review this season – as a rationale for his banishment. Skiles said he talked with the team’s big men about the numbers crunch.

“What I told [them was] more than likely, I would have to put a guy or two out for no good reason,” Skiles said. ” I know it’s uncomfortable for him but he’s handling it very, very well.”

Even that’s a tricky thing though, isn’t it? If a player fusses and fumes over being drydocked, he’s selfish and distracting. But if he takes too readily to it, he must not care and be only interested in the paycheck.

So Gooden tries to split the difference, treating this stretch of inactivity like it’s a set of Juwan Howard Training Wheels. He practices hard, warms up before games longer than any of the Bucks, then retreats to shower and dress before tipoff rather than after the final horn. Gooden also finds ways to amuse himself; he  engaged in a Twitter war with pal Joakim Noah and gave his game tickets Monday at United Center to fan who tweeted a photo of a Bulls jersey in a toilet.

“It’s something new,” he said after the Bucks’ comeback victory Monday at Chicago. “It’s something that I feel like, later on, down the road, I’m getting ready for in my career. So why not get a taste of it right now and see how I handle it.”

Now in his 11th season, playing for his ninth team, the No. 4 pick in the 2002 draft has averaged 12.0 points and 7.7 rebounds. He has started (493 games), come off the bench (178) and been sidelined by various ailments, including plantar fasciitis for all but 35 games in 2010-11.

“This is my role right now. I’m gonna accept it and do my best job at it. Sometimes it’s a hard pill to swallow. But if you can do that and show people that you can do it, it’s almost like a leadership skill. I feel like I’m setting an example, more than anything.”

A team that had too little size last season suddenly has too much. So much that Skiles could bench Dalembert for what reportedly was a late arrival to the arena Saturday against Chicago, use rookie Henson for just 78 seconds one game after he grabbed 18 rebounds and keep Gooden inactive – then get clobbered inside, with the Bulls grabbing 20 offensive rebounds.

It almost looks like the coach is trying to send a message about roster composition to the front office.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on,” Dalembert said. “I mean, there’s so many big men. Drew did tremendous for this team last year. Y’know, Drew doesn’t deserve to be where he is right now. It’s hard, it’s hard. But you try to stay positive and we keep supporting each other. He’s being a good professional.”

Skiles acknowledged that deploying Gooden this way is a choice. If he wanted, he could rotate various Bucks big men through the inactive list rather than burdening just one guy.

Then again, the inactive rule itself could be tweaked. It came about as a way to shed the old “injured list,” in which teams often had to fabricate an injury to warehouse someone. That system forced a player to sit a minimum of five games before being eligible to return.

“Ultimately what I want to see is, be able to dress everybody and be able to only play 12,” Skiles said. “I’d like to see that and I think most of the coaches would.”

In the meantime, Drew Gooden sits.

Bucks’ Gooden: Anti-Flop Rule ‘Takes Away From The Game’

ST. FRANCIS, Wis. – In theory, eradicating any sort of trickery or skullduggery from NBA games should qualify as a good thing. Keeping it genuine is just another form of keeping it real. So if the league’s new anti-flopping rule wrings out the chicanery of defenders seeking phony charging fouls and turnovers by pretending to absorb bogus contact, the product as competition and entertainment will be better for it, right?

Not so fast. There is the little matter of unintended consequences, which came up during a visit to the Milwaukee Bucks’ training camp Thursday.

Veteran forward Drew Gooden doesn’t like the rule, which is being added for 2012-13 to discourage players from flopping, a tactic the NBA says is intended to “either fool referees into calling undeserved fouls or fool fans into thinking the referees missed a foul call.” That’s how Stu Jackson, NBA executive vice president of baskeball operations put it when announcing the rule and the ladders of penalties – a warning for the first violation, a $30,000 fine for the fifth, with undetermined punishment for a half dozen or more.

But Gooden pointed out what he saw as a couple of flaws in the rule.

“I think the guys who are going to be in trouble are the guys who lead the league in [taking legit] charges,” Gooden said after Milwaukee’s morning workout. “Ersan [Ilyasova] had a play yesterday where Ekpe [Udoh] was about to take a real hard power-dribble and he anticipated it. He stood on his heels, he took contact and it was like a no-call. Is that a warning? Is that a violation? That’s gonna be the question.”

Gooden then demonstrated a classic flop, hurling backward at the slightest touch of contact. “If I just go like this, like Anderson Varejao,” he said, “different story. … You see a guy take one dribble in the post and a guy acts like he just got blown up.”

(more…)

Draft Comparisons: Davis, Robinson, Beal & Kidd-Gilchrist





HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – As Draft time rolls around and we learn about the next class of NBA rookies, there’s a desire to compare each to players we’re already familiar with.

No two players are exactly alike and some players are more unique than others. But you can find comparisons by watching video, crunching stats or matching measurements. For this exercise, we did the latter two.

Listed below are four of the top picks, along with the current NBA players they compare with most. For this exercise, we looked at 10 stats from each player’s last season in college, and eight measurements taken at the annual pre-draft combine.

Because we used college numbers and combine numbers, the only current players we could compare this year’s prospects to were the ones who played in college (so no LeBron James or Dwight Howard) and participated in the combine since 2000 (Rajon Rondo is one notable name missing in that respect).

The following comparisons aren’t gospel, of course, but they’re one way to get read for the draft on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). (more…)

Bucks Again Getting A D In ‘O’

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Scorers come, scorers go and still the Milwaukee Bucks struggle to light up the scoreboard.

For the second time in as many offseasons – or what passed for one this time in the post-lockout rush job between Thanksgiving and Christmas – the Bucks have tried to spruce up their offense. With dreary results.

Prior to 2010-11, it was Corey Maggette, John Salmons and an offensive-boarding Drew Gooden who were going to get buckets for the Bucks. Instead, Milwaukee slipped from 23rd in points per game to dead last in the NBA (91.9), from 29th in field-goal percentage to last (.430) and from 12th in 3-point shooting to 24th (.342).

This time around, Stephen Jackson, Mike Dunleavy and Beno Udrih were brought aboard with similar hopes and expectations. And yet, after 10 days and five games, Milwaukee is having trouble scoring again. It ranks 24th, 25th and 27th in the three categories above, while its raw numbers have declined – 90.8 ppg, .412 and .253 – in part due to lockout rust but in part, frankly, because the Bucks and coach Scott Skiles earn their scoring shortcomings.

The 85-73 loss at Utah Tuesday was the latest example of Milwaukee putting the uh-oh in offense, as blogged by Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Drew Gooden, starting in place of Andrew Bogut after the Bucks starting center had to leave the team for personal reasons, scored 24 points and was the only Milwaukee player to shoot better than 50% from the field (12 of 20).

Take Gooden’s shots out of the mix and the rest of the team made 22.7% on field goal attempts (17 of 75).

“We’ve got to recognize when we’re not scoring, and when we’re going through droughts, slow down and try to execute,” Bucks guard Shaun Livingston said. “Try to get great shots, not good shots.”

An asterisk was in order, because Bogut was joined in absentia by Dunleavy (groin injury) and Udrih (shoulder). Also, Milwaukee did average 98.3 points in its first three games, hanging 95 on the Bobcats, 98 on the Timberwolves and 102 on the Wizards. But then the Bucks’ output dropped to 86 at Denver Monday, followed by 73 last night. And remember, this is with Jackson and Carlos Delfino presumably green-lighted by Skiles and his staff and Ersan Ilyasova firing away as if he is, at least, healthy.

One contributing factor is point guard Brandon Jennings, who is back down to 37.6 percent (32-of-85) after bumping his accuracy ever so slightly from 37.1 percent as a rookie in 2009-10 to 39.0 last season. And let’s face it, bad shooting can be contagious same as good; if a defense can sag off one or two men, it can devote more attention to others. Utah contested a lot of shots at Energy Solutions Arena – Derrick Favors had five blocks and Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap swatted two each – but there were open clangs as well that made life a little easier on the Jazz.

The question now is whether the Bucks have both the personnel and the wherewithal to improve offensively. Michael Redd is gone. Ray Allen, Marques Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar aren’t walking through that door, either. The pattern under Skiles isn’t promising: Since he took over in 2008-09, Milwaukee has not ranked in the top 10 in any of the three areas above, getting as high as 12th in 3-point shooting two seasons ago.

Everyone knows, and many appreciate, the bulldog defense that Skiles preaches. But it seems odd that the guy who, as a Magic point guard, holds the NBA record for most assists in a game – 30, Orlando vs. Denver, Dec. 30, 1990 – can’t set up his team for more easy buckets.

Labor Talks: Tick Tock, Tick Tock …

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ve all known for a while now that the first week of October would serve as a crucial week in these NBA labor talks.

No progress before then and the opening days of this month could be a make-or-break time for both sides, not to mention the millions of us around the world biting our nails hoping that our first love (the NBA) would come back to us … and soon.

It’s hard to categorize the things that have gone on in recent days as true progress. Sure, there have been meetings. Ideas have been exchanged. But no one is talking in a way that suggests that even the loose framework of a deal is under way.

And now comes this crossroads moment, a “very huge day,” according to the words used by union president Derek Fisher in characterizing today’s session.

We won’t know exactly what that means until the sides emerge from that meeting room in New York and explain themselves after yet another day of exhausting conversation about how to close the gap between what the owners want and the players are willing to give.

But if the developments of the past 24 hours are any indication, everyone seems to be digging in and the clock continues to tick …

Agents Urge Players To Stay Strong

Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated: In a letter to their clients, Arn Tellem (Wasserman Media Group), Bill Duffy (BDA Sports), Dan Fegan (Lagardère Unlimited), Jeff Schwartz (Excel Sports Management), Leon Rose and Henry Thomas (Creative Artists Agency) and Mark Bartelstein (Priority Sports and Entertainment), outlined what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable going into the biggest day of negotiating yet.

Here are some of the notable demands in the letter, which was obtained by SI.com from a player: (Click here for the full letter in PDF):

• With the National Basketball Players’ Association having already offered to drop the players’ portion of basketball-related income from 57 percent to 52 percent, the agents implore players to insist on “no further reduction of the BRI received by the players. A source close to the union told SI.com recently that any agreed-upon deal in which the players received 51 percent could possibly be ratified but would likely lead to the ousting of Billy Hunter as the NBPA’s executive director, so this is in line with those parameters.

• A system in which the current structure of the Bird and mid-level exceptions remains the same.

• No reduction in salary from existing levels for maximum contract players.

• No changes in unrestricted free agency and improvements on restricted free agency.

• “Refuse any deal that excludes players from the explosive growth of the NBA.” Owners’ proposals that have started with players receiving 46 percent of the BRI have included drastic declines in their percentage of the pie in the later years of the agreement.

(more…)

Blogtable: Stretch run

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Team that will gain the most ground down the stretch run of the season?

David Aldridge: I’m going with Philly. Doug Collins has his players believing in the system and in each other, and one would expect bigger second-half contributions from rookie Evan Turner after he struggled early. The Sixers also have a +4 home/road split the rest of the way, and they’re 17-9 at Wells Fargo Center this season. They have a long west swing in mid-March and they have road games afterward at Miami and Chicago. If they’re still in the race after that, it’s mostly downhill sledding the rest of the way.

Steve Aschburner: The Milwaukee Bucks have the most room for improvement. Their lineup has been riddled by injuries to the point that coach Scott Skiles hasn’t yet had a full complement for practice. The guys who have been on the floor have struggled mightily to score: The Bucks are last in offensive rating (101.0, compared to 107.0 league average) and are 24th in field-goal percentage overall and from the arc. Signees such as Drew Gooden, Corey Maggette and John Salmons have disappointed. But that mess has produced 22 victories already. The schedule is friendlier now and Skiles got a surge down the stretch last season that they might be able to replicate. (more…)