OAKLAND, CALIF. — Now I know perhaps the real reason Drew Gooden turned pro after his junior season at Kansas University. By opting for the NBA, Gooden will have two homecoming games in the Arena in Oakland instead of one.
Let me explain.
Saturday, as you know, was supposed to be Gooden's welcome-home day when Kansas met California in the Pete Newell Challenge. But it wasn't, because Gooden, who hails from up the interstate in Richmond, is now with the Memphis Grizzlies, who will play the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 13 and again on Feb. 3 in the Arena in Oakland.
So Gooden will return twice as a pro rookie, and aren't two homecoming games better than one? On paper, yes. But perhaps not. After all, the Grizzlies are one of the NBA's worst teams and Kansas ... well, the Jayhawks may not be as deep as they were when Gooden led them in scoring and rebounding on the way to the NCAA Final Four last season, but, as coach Roy Williams said following the 80-67 victory over Cal, "At times, we were really, really good."
Williams could have inserted another "really" as a modifier and few would have accused him of exaggeration. I'm not sure, for instance, I have ever seen a Kansas starting five post more impressive statistics than KU's starters did against the Golden Bears.
All five scored in double figures while combining for 75 of the 80 points.
"Their five," Cal coach Ben Braun said, "are as good as I've seen. Not just played against. As I've seen."
What made the Jayhawks the full fathom five on Saturday was Aaron Miles, the sophomore point guard who rarely scores in double figures. Usually, Miles concentrates on assists and defense. This time Miles did all three with 16 points, 11 assists and four steals.
"He had a huge game for them," Braun said. "I thought he was a key for their team."
Curiously, Miles had a game Saturday like most people thought he might have when he returned to his hometown of Portland, Ore., earlier this month for a game against Oregon. Instead, Miles might have had the worst game of his life against the Ducks by missing 10 of 11 shots and turning the ball over a ghastly seven times.
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If Miles was Mr. Hyde in Portland, he was Dr. Jekyll in Oakland.
And if Miles performs during the Big 12 Conference season like he did against the Golden Bears, then Kansas can repeat as league champion, assuming the Jayhawks' front-liners can continue to play 30-plus minutes game after game after game.
Kansas was playing only its third game in the last 18 days on Saturday -- a breather caused by the inviolate final-exam period. But starting next Thursday, the Jayhawks will play three games in five days. Then we'll have a clearer indication if the five starters are made of iron or iron pyrite ... if they're the Ferrous Five or the Fool's Gold Five.
Still, the impact of Saturday's triumph over a talented if not great Cal team is that when all five Kansas starters are performing at a high level of skill and confidence, then it will take a really, really good performance by an opponent to defeat them.