Don’t Call Him Gentle

Gordon after a Berto Center workout
Ben Gordon describes himself as "a player who is unselfish but can create his own shot every time he gets into the game.”
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    Posted July 15, 2004

    Not only is Ben Gordon a proven winner, he’s ready for the next level.

    It’s not too often you can say that anymore about an NBA lottery pick. But in Gordon, the Bulls know they have a ready and willing player to take the United Center court this season. And like his college coach once did, don't call him gentle. This playmaking combo guard will fearlessly attack the lane and create multiple scoring opportunities for fellow Bulls every time he steps on the court. sat down with the third overall pick in NBA Draft 2004 between mini-camp sessions as the team prepares for the Reebok Rocky Mountain Revue (July 16-24).
    You enjoyed a considerable rise in your stock in the weeks leading up to NBA Draft 2004. What do you attribute that to?

    Ben Gordon:
    “It basically came down to the individual workouts. They give you an opportunity to make your own destiny. I just came in to every workout with the attitude that I was going to prove to people that I was the best guard available. Especially when I came here, knowing that the Bulls had the third pick, I tried to show them everything I could do and it worked out well for me.”
    What comes to mind when you think about your performance in this past season’s Big East tournament, when Emeka Okafor was struggling with a bad back and you scored a record 81 points in three wins?

    “Wow, it was pretty much the turning point of the season for me. At that point in the season, I had gone through a little slump. I was struggling and I decided that I was putting too much pressure on myself and that I needed to go out there and have fun. Once I did that, I started playing my best basketball. I think that is what it’s about. If you go out there and have and play basketball, everything will take care of itself.”
    You had been called it before, but you truly earned the nickname “Madison Square Gordon” after that tournament. Now that you’re in Chicago, is it time to come up with a new one?

    “Well, I’ll always have that nickname, but if I put enough hard work in here, hopefully I’ll be fortunate enough to get a new nickname here. That’s definitely something I’ll be working towards.”
    What about “Gentle Ben,” which Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun used to call you?

    Ben Gordon and John Paxson during a photo shoot
    Gordon and Bulls GM John Paxson share a laugh during a photo shoot at the Berto Center.

    [Laughing] “Coach used to call me that to motivate me. He used to do it as a joke sometimes. When I was playing bad, he’d call me that and it would get me going.”
    What do you feel that your experience at UConn did for you as a player and as a person?

    “It helped me grow a lot. When I first went there, it was kind of a culture shock. Where I came from, in Mount Vernon, was a predominately black neighborhood. Going to UConn, a big state school, it introduced me to a number of different people and it really helped me grow as a person and not just a basketball player. I became a lot more social than I was before.”
    Having won championships at both the high school and college level, how do you think you’ll adjust to playing for a team which has struggled to win over the last few years?

    “I think you just have to keep working hard. You have to dig yourself out of a hole sometimes and hopefully we will get into a position where the team is winning again. That’s my motivation. No matter how bad things look, I’ll always keep a view of the future and want I want to accomplish. With those things in mind, hopefully I’ll get to where I want to be.”
    You’ve had a couple weeks since the draft to get acclimated to your new teammates, coaches, and the city of Chicago. What are your impressions so far?

    “I think that everybody here, all my teammates included, is willing to learn. The coaches are really good here at teaching us things we didn’t know before, especially with the rookies because everything is so new for us. They are taking the time to work with us and teach us and that will be good for the whole team. When I first came to Chicago, I fell in love with it. It reminds me of New York a little bit so I feel right at home.”
    What do you know about Kirk Hinrich and how do you feel you’ll fit into the Bulls’ backcourt with him?

    “I like Kirk’s game a lot. I think he’s a really heady guard and he knows how to play. I think that given the fact that we can both shoot and handle the ball, we’ll complement each other very well.”
    Do you think you’ll always hear criticisms about your size?

    “Well, I don’t look at like I’m the kind of player who is a full-time two-guard. Kirk and I will probably be interchangeable. I think that once people see that I can get out there and make plays and get other guys involved, they’ll be happy.”

    Ben Gordon chats with Norm Van Lier
    Guys like former Bulls great Norm Van Lier will fall in love with Gordon's game.
    What is it that you take the most pride in when it comes to basketball and your game? Is there a certain aspect of what you do that stands out?

    “I would probably say it’s my ability to score and make plays. I feel that when I’m making plays that kind of opens up everything else for my game. I take pride in my defense, too; though it’s something I know I have to get better at. But I’m slowly learning a lot of new principles and once I get those things down, I’ll be really good.”
    Who has helped you the most through your hoops career and how have they helped you?

    “Funny enough, I have to say it’s my Mom. She’s always been there for me. Of course along the way you meet a lot of different people who give you advice, but the advice my Mom gives me always seems to apply to everything in life. I’d definitely say it’s her. Being that I don’t live with both parents, I have a very close relationship with her.”
    What do you expect your biggest challenge to be as you adjust to the NBA game?

    “I think it will be the whole mental aspect and staying focused. The game is a lot faster. You have a 24-second shot clock. You have to always be keyed in on what’s going on out on the court. Once I can adjust to all the different plays and sets, I’ll be fine.”
    What should Chicago Bulls fans expect to see from Ben Gordon?

    “They should expect to see an exciting player. They’ll see a player who is unselfish but can create his own shot every time he gets into the game.”

    - Adam Fluck,

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