Bucks, Gooden working toward “A” in chemistry

10-year veteran knows process requires patience

By Truman Reed

Drew Gooden

"Now I've signed a five-year deal with Milwaukee. So if you ask me, I've been a Cavalier and a Milwaukee Buck."
Photo: Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images

The Milwaukee Bucks, who had seven new players on their roster to start the 2010-11 season, are still trying to establish chemistry as the first month of the campaign draws toward its close.

Drew Gooden, one of those new players, is well-qualified to attest to the fact that chemistry rarely develops overnight, having played for 10 different National Basketball Association teams.

The 6-foot, 10-inch, 250-pound forward also knows that no one can put a timetable on chemistry from one team dynamic to the next because of the wide range of talents, personalities and intangibles involved.

All of those things considered, he seems to be figuring his Milwaukee niche out.

Gooden achieved a double-double in his Bucks debut, collecting 15 points and 11 rebounds in the team's 95-91 loss at New Orleans on October 27.

He didn't register his second Milwaukee double-double until his ninth game, but through contests of November 19, he had strung together three doublers in four outings, highlighted by a 22-point, 13-rebound effort November 16 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Both of those totals were season highs, so he wasn't padding his statistics against weaklings.

Bucks Head Coach Scott Skiles saw a difference in the 29-year-old Gooden during his recent stretch and believes he is finding his way with his latest new team.

"The last couple games, he's been relaxed, and when the ball has come to him and he's been in rhythm, he's shot it," Skiles said. "We want him to shoot the ball when he's open.

"We felt like he was trying to do a little bit too much. He was pump-faking and it was taking him out of rhythm."

Gooden earlier admitted that he is still trying to establish a comfort zone of sorts at the offensive end of the court.

"I was trying to figure out where my points were going to come from and where I can score the basketball from," Gooden said. "I was passing up a lot of open shots.

"I was trying to go to the basket and make plays in the paint, but I was turning down open jump shots. I can knock that mid-range shot down consistently. I have worked on it too much not to shoot it."

Over the course of his first nine NBA seasons, Gooden averaged 11.9 points and 7.9 rebounds and shot .471 from the field. Through his first dozen appearances as a Buck, his averages were close to his career marks. In 24.2 minutes per outing, he was averaging 11.2 points (sixth on the team) and 6.8 rebounds (second).

His field-goal percentage of .432 was below his career clip, but was climbing over his last five games.

"Drew obviously has found some form, which has been huge for us," Bucks center Andrew Bogut said. "We know each other's strengths and weaknesses better than we did to start the season. The more games we play, the better we'll figure that out."

Gooden, whom the Bucks signed to a five-year free-agent contract on July 8, was excited to start a new chapter of his career in Milwaukee, but he wasn't making any bold predictions when the season began. Again, time has taught him well.

When asked at that juncture how long it would take the revamped Bucks team to achieve chemistry and what this group can achieve, Gooden took the wait-and-see approach of a savvy veteran.

"You never know," he said. "I'd like to say, 'We're going to win the championship,' or 'We're going to be the best defensive team in the NBA,' but we have to earn that and work for it. I can answer those questions better in April."

Gooden did express his belief, however, that the Bucks have something on their side that other teams don't.

"I think with Coach Skiles' system, you can't help but follow suit and come together and mesh," he said. "You saw that in Chicago when he was there and you saw it last year in Milwaukee also.

"There's something about the coach that gets us in gear and gets the chemistry meshing. It's a gift that he has and it's a plus for us."

Gooden didn't plan on forcing his way onto center stage with the Bucks, and neither did the team's other newcomers. He explained why that didn't happen.

"We want Andrew and Brandon Jennings to be the leaders, plain and simple," Gooden said. "But at the same time, you've got to have other guys stepping in there and talking. Brandon still has to learn, but one day he's going to be our age and he'll say, 'I played with veterans who helped me out.'"

Gooden and his fellow veteran Milwaukee newcomers shared a common ground from the time they touched down in Brewtown.

"We all want to be here, and we all want to win," he said. "I was talking to Corey (Maggette) and Keyon (Dooliing). We're at the point of our careers where we want to win. There's not much point in talking about what team we might be on next. We're focusing on what we can do on this team this year.

"It's good to have the group of guys around us (the Bucks' returnees from 2009-10) that we have. They did it. The guys who were here before did it last year and set this team up to where it is now. All we want to do is help add to that."

Bucks management has to be encouraged to hear that, because for the majority of his first nine NBA seasons, Gooden was a thorn in Milwaukee's side. Bucks officials brought up the topic during negotiations with Gooden.

"Yeah, they did," Gooden said. "I've put up some big numbers against the Bucks over my career. I love the Bradley Center, you know what I'm saying? That's a plus. "I'm so excited to be here. It's a great situation and a new challenge for me. I've been in so many different situations in the preseason, then after the All-Star break and the trade deadline, I've changed teams and I've had to adapt right away."

Gooden believes the benefit of having a full camp with the Bucks will pay dividends, and he hopes his Milwaukee career will carry stability.

"The comfort level I have here is unbelievable," he said. "I haven't been this comfortable since coming into the league in my rookie year to Memphis.

"I thought I was going to be in Memphis for 15 years. Then I got traded 50 games into my rookie year. Then I saw the nature of the business and what can happen. My longest stint was in Cleveland for four years.

"Now I've signed a five-year deal with Milwaukee. So if you ask me, I've been a Cavalier and a Milwaukee Buck."