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Archive for Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Gooden to net more playing time

Former Kansas University hoops standout seeks long career with Cavs, then stint as big-league pitcher

October 9, 2007

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The absence of Anderson Varejao, who remains out due to contract negotiations, means several Cleveland Cavaliers players will have to step up their games until Varejao returns.

Varejao's absence will mean more time for Drew Gooden. Not only will Gooden have to hold his own at power forward, but he could see even more action as a backup to center Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

Former Kansas University standout Gooden has not played more than 30 minutes per game since his first season with the Cavs in 2004-05. But he says he's ready to step it up.

"I'll have to condition myself so I can be prepared to do it night in and night out," Gooden said.

"The minutes I've played before seemed like I was playing only half a season. But I'm in condition, and I want more minutes if Andy's here or not here."

Gooden has averaged 28.1 minutes per game over his career. He logged 28 minutes last season and 27.5 minutes the year before. Several factors come into play when it comes to Gooden's playing time.

Over the course of his career, he's had to learn several different systems because he has played for numerous coaches. Mike Brown is Gooden's third coach with the Cavs as he enters his fourth season. Also, Gooden had the distinction of not knowing if he was a small forward or a power forward, or a scorer or a rebounder. His defensive skills also have been questioned.

But those reputations have started to die.

"Drew's so talented and so gifted, and that's been a blessing and a curse for him," said Cavs assistant coach Mel Hunt. "Because he's so gifted, he can float outside of his role in what we need him to do and still be productive. But at the same time, we're trying to keep him within his role so we can all be on the same page."

This Cavs philosophy craves Gooden's versatility.

"We're going to expect more from him this year," Hunt said. "You're going to see more of his talent."

Gooden remains one of the most colorful players in the league. This week he said once his NBA career is over, he wants a shot at the major leagues. Gooden, who worked out with former major-league shortstop Barry Larkin in Orlando, Fla., two summers ago, wants to display his side-arm delivery.

"I'm serious," said Gooden, 26, who expects to retire from the NBA in about 10 years.

"I'll be 35 or 36, but I'll have a fresh arm. I'm not talking about becoming a starter. I'll be a relief pitcher. I believe once I spend time working on it, I'll be able to do it."

Gooden, who competed against Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia when they were growing up in the Bay Area, has not pitched competitively since early in high school.

By the way, Gooden will not sport the patch of hair that he wore throughout last season.

The patch, or "duck tail," got as much if not more attention than Gooden the player. "That's why it was time to let it go," said Gooden, who will keep his head completely shaved. "That tail got more attention than me. Plus, I had to end the turmoil all my family had to go through."

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