Clippers’ Drew Gooden has plenty of NBA mileage
Drew Gooden never stays anywhere for long.
Three years at Kansas. Less than a season with the Memphis Grizzlies, who made him the fourth overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft. Nine teams in eight pro seasons.
“I probably know every playbook in the league now,” Gooden quipped Saturday evening upon joining the Clippers.
Even by his standards, the power forward endured something of a whirlwind sequence last week. Four days after being traded from Dallas to Washington -- and trying unsuccessfully to negotiate a buyout of his contract with the Wizards -- Gooden found himself with the Clippers following another trade.
Gooden acknowledged that he sought to leave woebegone Washington in a move that would have allowed him to return to the playoff-bound Mavericks, but he seemed to indicate he was willing to give the lottery-bound Clippers a shot.
Just not Saturday.
Clippers interim Coach Kim Hughes said before his team played Sacramento at Staples Center that Gooden had told him he would prefer to postpone his debut with the team until Monday.
Did Gooden say why he wasn’t ready to play?
“No, and I didn’t ask because I said I’d leave it up to him,” Hughes said. “If you come in and you’re ready to play, I’m going to play you a ton of minutes. But if you’re not ready to play that’s fine too. We’ll go after it Monday.”
When he finally plays, the Clippers’ newest acquisition will be expected to provide rebounding, an inside presence and a knack for making 17-foot jumpers. He averaged 8.9 points and 6.9 rebounds in 46 games this season with the Mavericks, including 11 starts.
But then came the trading deadline and, predictably, a new team for a player with an expiring contract. Gooden has been moved at the trading deadline in each of the last three seasons.
Even the Lakers inquired about Gooden around this time last year after Sacramento bought out his contract. He decided that San Antonio gave him his best chance to win a title, but the Spurs lost in the first round to Dallas.
“Sometimes the grass isn’t greener on the other side, and I came to find that out,” Gooden said. “But if I had to make a decision again, I wouldn’t have changed my decision.”
Gooden, 28, has gotten used to life on the move. After becoming Jerry West‘s first draft choice as president of the Grizzlies nearly eight years ago, he had to play out of position at small forward and was traded to Orlando toward the end of his rookie season.
The Oakland native later spent 3 1/2 seasons with Cleveland before embarking on a stretch in which he has been with five teams -- not including the Clippers -- over three seasons.
“Once the fans and you guys see me play out there, the first thing that’s going to be [said] is, ‘Why does this guy keep getting traded?’ ” Gooden said. “I just have to go out and keep proving myself. I like that. It keeps fire underneath me, it keeps fire in me.”
Gooden will be a free agent again this summer, meaning he could again be filling out change-of-address forms. He said he’d like to find a permanent home and is willing to consider the Clippers.
“I don’t think their record speaks of what kind of talent is on this team,” Gooden said. “There’s always time you can turn things around and make it into a winning environment to finish out the season. I think we have good guys to do that.”
Baron Davis sat out a second consecutive game because of a sore lower back. But Hughes said the point guard told him he was feeling better, and the Clippers hope he can return Monday.
Forward Travis Outlaw, acquired Tuesday as part of the trade that sent Marcus Camby to Portland, is expected to make his Clippers debut the same night.
“He’ll be rusty, but he’ll get minutes,” Hughes said of Outlaw, who has not played since Nov. 14 because of a stress fracture in his left foot. “Basically as many as he can take.”
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