Back when he was the starting power forward for a Cleveland Cavaliers team that advanced to the NBA Finals, Drew Gooden came up with a routine of flickering his fingers – or “making it rain” – after he made a string of jumpers. Gooden brought out the “drizzle” during the Cavaliers’ first-round sweep of the Wizards in 2007 and it has followed him in his many subsequent stops.
But over the past 11 months, the faucet had been cut off for Gooden. The Milwaukee Bucks didn’t play him and eventually cut him using the amnesty provision last July, sending the 11-year veteran forward into an extended scoring drought. No teams came with a serious offer until last week, when the Wizards signed him to a 10-day contract and he didn’t actually score until third appearance in four games with the team.
Al Harrington drove down the lane and whipped a pass to Gooden in the left corner and he buried an 18-foot baseline jumper. The two points were his first scored in an NBA game since April 6 against Toronto, his last appearance before making his season debut with the Wizards last Saturday in Philadelphia.
Otto Porter Jr. quickly got a steal and Andre Miller found Gooden cutting to the basket for a scoop shot, giving him four points in 19 seconds. After missing his next shot, Gooden made a running bank shot and hit another jumper from the same spot as his first. He shot 4 of 5 in the first half but wasn’t ready to hit the tap for the “drizzle.”
“I almost did it,” Gooden said after the game, “but if you remember, you got to hit four in a row to hit the drizzle, but I’m almost there.”
Gooden, 32, finished with 12 points in the Wizards’ 104-91 win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, which was the first tme that he had scored at least 10 points in a game since April 21, 2012. Last season, Gooden only played 151 minutes in 16 games for the Bucks, never playing more than 22 minutes or scoring more than seven points in a game.
“Yeah, it was a tough situation for me last year, more business than basketball, but it is what it is,” Gooden said. “This is my situation right now. I’m making the best of it.”
The Wizards’ next opponent just happens to be the Bucks on Saturday in Milwaukee. And yes, Gooden has checked the schedule. “Funny how the stars line up,” he said with a laugh.
For Gooden to join the Wizards in Milwaukee, the team will have to sign him to another 10-day contract. With Nene out for another five weeks with a left knee sprain and Kevin Seraphin day-to-day with a right knee injury, the Wizards still need some interior help. Gooden liked his chances when he showed up to practice on Tuesday and saw that there was nameplate above his locker room stall that read, “Gooden 90.”
“They gave me a little incentive that I might be here,” Gooden said.
A source with knowledge of the team’s thinking said the Wizards’ “likely” will sign Gooden to a second 10-day contract on Saturday after his first one expires.
Gooden has only been with the team for a week, which he jokingly said gives him a good excuse if makes a mistake because he can just blame it on learning the system. But after being a well-traveled player – the Wizards are the 10th team for which he has suited up – Gooden hasn’t had a really difficult time fitting in.
“We always joke about how many teams I’ve been on, so this is not anything new for me, about trying to transition as quick as I have to in a short amount of time. The good thing is, we’re in a winning situation and whatever it takes to help the team, I’m going to do it,” Gooden said. “I had a lot of time to reflect on my career and having that much time off really tests your professionalism. Having to wake up on your own schedule and having to work out.”
His performance against Utah came at a good time after going scoreless in his first two games. Coach Randy Wittman expected that Gooden would need some time to shake off the rust and regain his conditioning after not playing for several months.
“I thought Drew came in and battled,” Wittman said. “We know he is capable when he gets into shape to make that 18-foot jump shot.”
Gooden wasn’t worried that he would eventually get something to drop for the Wizards. “I knew it was going to happen over time. It’s tough to come in on three-minute spurts and you ain’t played in 18 months and expect the basket to go in. I think I’m at the age now, where if it’s another guy in my situation, I would tell him what he needs to do, so I basically coach myself through the whole situation. All I need to do is see one go in and that’s it.”