Good news comes in triplicate for Gooden

Perseverance finally pays off for veteran

By Truman Reed

Drew Gooden

Gooden had recently expressed how difficult it has been for him to miss an extended period of time for the first time in his pro career.

Some remedies take more time to formulate than others.

Milwaukee Bucks fans ought to be hoping that the latest remedy involving their team becomes a cure.

Drew Gooden achieved one of the individual highlights of a frustrating Bucks season on the night of April 9, 2011, posting the first triple-double of his nine-year National Basketball Association career.

The 6 foot-10 inch, 250-pound forward/center’s 15 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists helped lead Milwaukee to a 108-101 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers – one of Gooden’s former teams – at the Bradley Center.

Gooden’s appearance in the Bucks lineup was only his eighth since March 26, when he played for the first time since being sidelined by plantar fasciitis in his left foot following a Jan. 21 game against – coincidentally – Cleveland.

The game was only Gooden’s 33rd of the season spanning Milwaukee’s first 80 contests. He got the starting nod for only the 16th time this year and filled in valuably for center Andrew Bogut, whom the Bucks shut down for the final four games of the season due to lingering problems with his injured right arm.

Gooden had recently expressed how difficult it has been for him to miss an extended period of time for the first time in his pro career, particularly since he had to cope with the uncertainty that accompanies conditions such as plantar fasciitis.

“I think this gives us something to build off for the future, and see what I can bring to the game, to this team, to help them win,” Gooden said.

Gooden had hoped to do that when he arrived in Milwaukee late last summer after signing a five-year free-agent contract with the team.

When asked what role he figured he’d be playing for the Bucks, Gooden responded, “Ride out, rebound, get us extra possessions, dive on the floor for loose balls, take charges, sacrifice my body. I just want to win. I’m a competitor.

“We want Andrew (Bogut) and Brandon Jennings to be the leaders, plain and simple. 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.’”

The former University of Kansas First-Team All-American was excited about the prospect of playing for Bucks Head Coach Scott Skiles.

“You know Coach Skiles’ teams are going to play hard,” Gooden said. “Every time we played against them, I knew I was going to have to bring my ‘A’ game and play hard, and I did. He liked that, from the years I played against him.

“He tried to get me in Chicago, and he’s been trying to get me in Milwaukee for the last couple of years. I guess I’m the type of player that he likes. Now that I’m here with him, I’m going to try to carry out that duty.”

Gooden, who carried career averages of 11.9 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per outing into his ninth NBA season, delivered a double-double in his first regular-season stint with Milwaukee. He contributed 15 points and 11 rebounds as the Bucks dropped their 2010-11 season debut to the New Orleans Hornets 95-91 Oct. 27.

Gooden, though, scored in double digits in only two of his next eight games.

He followed that up with one of the most productive stretches of his season, collecting 16 points and 10 rebounds against Golden State, 22 points and 13 boards against the Los Angeles Lakers, 16 points and eight rebounds against Philadelphia and 16 points and a season-high 16 rebounds against Oklahoma City.

His next two double-doubles – 20 points and 11 rebounds against San Antonio and 14 points and 11 boards against Houston – came five games apart. And two games after that, he was shut down because of his foot ailment.

Gooden’s first game back following a 31-game idle stretch came March 28, when he played 17 minutes and collected two points and eight rebounds against Charlotte.

Two nights afterward, he stepped up his production significantly, logging 22 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes in a 104-98 victory over Toronto.

In April games leading up to his triple-double, he posted 10 rebounds against Indiana on April 1, a double-double of 12 points and 12 boards in a 93-87 triumph over Philadelphia on April 2, nine points in a 90-85 win at Miami on April 6 and 12 points and four rebounds against Detroit on April 8.

Through six April games, he was averaging 12.6 points and 7.3 rebounds – very close to his career numbers for someone who had just spent two months on the sideline.

His game against Cleveland, though, went far above and beyond anything anyone could have forecast for him during that two-month stretch on the bench.

Gooden already had eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists at halftime, and he completed his triple-double with 5:06 left in the third quarter.

He not only attained his first pro triple-double, but put in 37:09 of action – his third-longest stint of the season.

Skiles expressed his encouragement over Gooden’s performance.

“He was very good tonight,” Skiles said. “He rebounded the ball, passed the ball and shot the ball. He was active. I mean, he was active in the previous games, and tonight he was at a different level.” If Gooden’s strong finish to his first Bucks season has set the bar high for his second one, player, coach, teammates and fans can only hope he is physically capable of reaching it when the time arrives for the opening tip.