Gordon Aiming For Consistency
Ben Gordon’s remarkable drive and determination helps him get the most out of his 6-3, 200-pound frame.
August 10, 2005—Just a few seasons ago, it seemed that the odds were always against the Bulls to win a close game in the closing minutes. Clutch baskets were tough to find, silly mistakes were made and breaks just didn’t go Chicago’s way.
Things have changed. Need 22 points in the fourth quarter at Charlotte? No problem. Looking for an improbable last second shot at Madison Square Garden for the win? Done and done.
Those were only a few of Ben Gordon's accomplishments in an unprecedented rookie season in which he delivered double digit scoring efforts in the final frame an absurd 21 times (only LeBron, Kobe and Arenas did it more). But even Gordon acknowledges that he needs to get better, and by better, that means more consistent.
Gordon, who sat down with Bulls.com after a recent workout, stresses that getting a quick start in 2005.06 and spreading out his game over all four quarters are among his top priorities.
Tell me a little about your upcoming reality show on MTV, in which you lead a team of New York amateurs against Andre Iguodala’s Chicago squad.
Ben Gordon: Every summer, Nike has something they call Nike Battlegrounds. This year’s theme was the Chicago and New York rivalry and what they did was pretty cool. They picked me to be the GM/coach of the New York team with me being from there, and Andre Iguodala, who is from Illinois, is in charge of the Chicago team. There were about 500 kids who tried out, and the footage they taped includes the tryouts, us cutting the teams down to the final ones, the practices, and following some of the kids around their neighborhoods to show the kind of lifestyle they live. The game itself was in Akron, Ohio, and LeBron James hosted it. It was really cool. I think MTV is going to do about six episodes starting in late August.
So you had a pretty active role throughout it all?
Definitely, they took a lot of footage of me in the gym with the kids and it was a lot of fun helping them work on their game. I got really animated once the game started—it was kind of wild. I was all over the court and stuff like that, just having some fun. It was good experience for a lot of kids who were able to come out and represent their city.
What’s it like getting to know guys like LeBron and Andre, other young players on the rise?
I’ve done some things with those two guys before, but it’s always good to be together at the same time with them. Those guys are really cool and they’re both young and very talented players. It’s good when you know guys and you can get together when you don’t have to go against each other. You can sit back, relax, and just talk.
Are there players across the league who you speak to on a regular basis?
Yeah, it’s mainly guys who were rookies, because we all came in together for our first season of experience in the NBA. You definitely get to know those guys and I’ve stayed in contact with a lot of my fellow classmates. I talk with Emeka [Okafor] all the time. We were roommates for three years [at UConn]. Our relationship is never going to change.
How close are you to guys on the team?
The team is so young and we all get along really well. The guys who I’m probably the closest with are Luol and Tyson, but I get along with all the guys just as well.
Gordon’s strength and conditioning work over the offseason has paid off—he played in every Bulls game last year and didn’t miss a single contest while at UConn.
Not really. I think people kind of took [that story] and ran with it. Don’t get me wrong—he did kind of take me under his wing and he definitely helped me and gave me some advice here and there. But it wasn’t like I was with him everyday or anything like that. MJ is a really busy guy, so every once in awhile I’d hear from him and we’d just talk. But it wasn’t much more than that.
What kinds of things did you learn from him?
First and foremost, he’s an inspiration. You can learn a lot from him without even talking; just by watching how he acts. I learned from him growing up by the way he always handled himself during press conferences, and now through stories I hear around the organization. He always waited and got fully dressed [after games] so the cameras never got a glimpse of him before he was ready. You can really learn a lot from guys like that as a young player. I just try to watch him—how he acts now and what he did in his career—to learn how I should handle myself.
You were at Tyson Chandler’s wedding in California a few weeks ago. Have you taken any other vacations this offseason?
I really didn’t do a lot of traveling this summer. I’m going to go home [to Mount Vernon, NY] for a little bit before camp starts because once we get started, we’re going for the next six or seven months. So other than spending some time with my family, I’m just going to lay low and relax and work out for the most part.
What’s a typical day at the gym like for you?
Typically, I get to the Berto Center around 9 a.m. I work on strength and conditioning with the coaches here; some days we’ll do a lot of lifting and others it is strictly conditioning. After that, I’ll come out on the court and get some shots up, a lot of reps with one of the guys helping me rebound. Then I’ll go upstairs, get a massage and relax. I usually come back at night to do some more drill work to try and keep my game refined.
Are there any specific goals that you’re trying to accomplish this offseason?
More than anything, I just want to come back [in the fall] in better shape. A lot of this game is about conditioning and how long you can give your best performance. If you can do that over an extended period of time, that’s one of the most important things in the NBA. I’m basically working on my overall game—my ballhandling, shooting, and other things of that nature. I’m getting stronger, too. You notice when you come in to the weightroom consistently that every week there is improvement. That’s my main thing, to try and be consistent. With our trainers, they do a great job pushing me and I know I’ll get more out of it if I’m consistent.
How different is your training now as opposed to last summer?
I know exactly what to expect now. Last summer, I was all over the place, working out for different teams and then coming to a new city and finding a place to live. There was a lot going on, but this summer is a lot simpler for me. It’s easier to focus on basketball and just relax. I can enjoy the summer more.
Are your workouts different now that you know what to expect with the NBA game?
I now have a full year of workouts under my belt and I’m training with the strength and conditioning coaches. I know what drills need to be done and I know what I need to do to get better. Last summer, it was kind of a struggle at times, coming in and not knowing what to expect. Everything was new then, but things are good now because I know what’s going on.
"Last season really gave me the mindset that it isn’t all about starting," says Gordon. "It’s about doing what you can with your minutes when you’re in the game."
I really don’t know what to expect. We haven’t signed everyone back yet, so we’re not sure yet what the team is going to look like come October. I’m just trying to work hard and put myself in to a position to play a lot of minutes. It doesn’t matter if I come off the bench or if I start, I just want to increase my minutes from where they were last year.
Down the road, though, you must have a desire to start, right?
Last season really gave me the mindset that it isn’t all about starting. It’s about doing what you can with your minutes when you’re in the game. Just be productive with the time you can get—that’s all you can do. Sometimes, it may not be the best thing for you to start. Last year, I came off the bench and I helped my team win a lot of games. I finished a lot of games. If I can come off the bench and play minutes like I’m a starter, that’s all I really want.
At times, you were absolutely dominant in the fourth quarter, taking games over single handedly. How are you working to become a more consistent player over all four quarters?
I got the bulk of my minutes in the fourth quarter. I feel like I didn’t really get the same sort of minutes in the fourth as I did in my first three quarters. So I hope it is just a matter of that being evened out so that you can see a more consistent flow to my game.
As this coming season gets closer, what expectations do you set for yourself and the team?
We definitely don’t want to take a step back from what we did as a team last year. If our whole team is back and everyone is healthy, I think we’ll definitely be back in the playoffs again and hopefully we’ll get past that first round. Individually, I just want to come back and play like a vet. Last year, I started off slow early on in the season. So I want to start the season off like I ended it this last season and get better with every game. I’m looking to keep improving on my court savvy and hopefully, I’ll have a little more poise out there.
You won a national championship at UConn and helped the Bulls to the playoffs last season. What similarities do you see between those two winning teams?
Defense. At UConn, just about every year we were top three in defensive field goal percentage and it’s the same thing here with the Bulls. I think Coach Skiles and Coach Calhoun really pride themselves on having good defensive teams. That’s been the difference maker for me from when I was in college and up here at the NBA level. Defense really helps you win games.
— Interview and photos by Adam Fluck