Drew Gooden: More manly than Carlos Boozer?
There are too many stories of people leaving Cleveland by way of the almighty dollar.
Not so long ago, the Cleveland Cavalier voted 2003-2004 Hardest Worker of the Year used deception and cunning to not only flee Cleveland, but flee to Salt Lake City. I understand that Cleveland can't compare to the bright lights of New York or Boston, but Carlos Boozer's underground march to Utah without so much as a tip of the hat to the owner who drafted him, or a wave goodbye to the best player in the NBA, wasn't a hint of greed — it was an all out confession.
Boozer's jettison was unlike Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez's in that he never even gave Cleveland a chance. Cleveland fans had a lot to cheer about as Boozer spent much of his first two years in Utah either in street clothes or putting up mediocre numbers for a mediocre team.
Enter Drew Gooden. Acquired in a trade that also brought emerging star Andeson Varejao in exchange for Tony Battie and second round picks, Gooden has done what he can to replace the numbers and hustle left behind by Boozer's cloud of smoke. Doing a serviceable job, and at times showing signs of brilliance, the former lottery pick has filled in well for Boozer. Gooden is also a hard worker, and a ball of energy, though playing alongside Zydrunas Ilgauskus could make Oliver Miller appear active. But Gooden has done nothing do disappoint.
This past off-season Gooden's contract expired. The Cavs showed interest, but didn't seem desperate to hang onto the six-year pro. Maybe it was the monster contracts already committed to Larry Hughes and Ilgauskus. Maybe the fact that Lebron James's contract does not run until his 40th birthday. Or maybe it was simply the fact that Danny Ferry and Dan Gilbert think Gooden's 10 and 8 would be easy to replace.
But unlike Boozer, Belle or even Ilgauskus, who coaxed a ridiculous five years and fifty million away from his close friend Ferry, Gooden played the bigger man. Agreeing to stay in Cleveland for half the length and a third of the money that Utah is currently paying Boozer, Gooden decided that playing with Lebron was worth something to him.
Gooden's loyalty and maturity has paid off for both him and the Cavs. So far into the young season, Gooden has been a pleasant surprise in the front court. His defense in the post is second to none in the Cavs' front court. His hustle on the glass has been a definite factor in several games. His numbers compare very well to Boozer's, who is having a "resurgent" year for the Jazz.
So did the Cavs actually benefit from Boozer's departure? Can it be that Gooden and Varejao are actually better than Boozer and Battie at a fraction of the cost? Six games into the season, it is na�ve to answer these questions with a "yes," but there is no doubt that maturity and hard work can pay off. And Drew Gooden is a model for that creed.
Long Beach, California