Drew Gooden Bric-a-Brac

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As our readers know by now, Drew Gooden and Joe Smith received buyouts from their respective clubs. Early reports connect Gooden to San Antonio and Smith to Cleveland. The Nets also paid Stromile Swift to go away, but no one cares.

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Coach Popovich took his sweet time before putting Pops Mensah-Bonsu into last night’s embarrassing defeat to the Trailblazers.  The Spurs were never really in the game.

Mensah-Bonsu might have played 20 minutes or fouled out, whichever came first. Why didn’t Pop play him more than 7 minutes? Insert your conspiracy theory here _______________ .

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PMB has established himself as a legit roster possible, despite the skinny burn. His numbers from the last two games–really, the only two games he’s played in as a Spur–amount to 19 minutes, 15 points, 9 boards, 1 steal, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 6 fouls,  and a positive +/- of 17.  All things considered, he’s looked more good than bad. Gregg Popovich is shrewd. Or cruel.

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I’m being coy. I like Mensah-Bonsu. The Spurs should keep him.

But when push comes to shove, they’ll probably let him go. He’s only on a 10-Day contract. Drew Gooden is an established power forward. Popovich likes veterans. Despite watching his team suffer a rout at the hand’s of Portland, Popovich was slow to put Mensah-Bonsu into the game.

That’s my pessimism rearing its ugly head, gold-capped teeth all glittering amongst the gray decay. Just like Old Beale Street’s carcass.

(I’ve digressed into a pop song. Where was I?)

I like Mensah-Bonsu. I hope the Spurs keep him.

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Soon after he checked into last night’s game, PMB knocked down a 19 foot pick and pop from above the key. He made those shots in Austin too. Most of his damage comes around the hoop on athletic, energy baskets, but his game is a little more developed.

Late in the forth he snagged a rebound and led a break that resulted in a turnover. He had the handle and speed to make good on the play, but he waited too long to give up the pass. It was a classic “hmmm…interesting…oh dear…” moment.  All in the space of 3 seconds.

During his short 7 minutes, he guarded multiple positions, and showed the foot speed to be an asset on that front. Overall, his defense is suspect. But it’s not beyond him. He needs coaching. He needs challenging. And he needs more opportunity.

Mensah-Bonsu provides a unique skill set. I’d like to see the Spurs offer him a multi-year deal, but protect themselves with an non-guaranteed contract for next season.

They need a Mensah-Bonsu escape hatch.

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George Hill and Malik Hairston are mediocre offensive players. Both of them can get to the rim, but neither is great at finishing. I’ve written about this before.

Whenever the ball rotates into Hairston’s hand, the offensive set becomes a game of hot potato. Hill is ahead of Hairston, but not by a wide margin. He has a lot of work to do, as well. But here’s the thing: they’re not terrible. By this time next season, they might be pretty good.

By pretty good, I mean more reliable than Ime Udoka. And, assuming they put in the work,  it’s not inconceivable that each player will motor right into must-respect-them-as-a-threat territory. So far as late first round and mid second round picks go, they’re showing the goods.  Popovich is making the most of what he’s got.

Defensively, Hill and Hairston are already good. In fact, both players could develop into high-quality agitators.

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Hairston played 25 minutes last night.  That means something, I’m just not sure what.

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Malik Hairston is a shooting guard.

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Drew Gooden? I want the Spurs to sign him, but they’re already at 15.

I want them to retain Pops Mensah-Bonsu.

I want the Spurs to hold onto Malik Hairston.

Numbers. 16 is too many.

(Exhales)

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Ime Udoka is the picture of inconsistency, and not just game to game. He’s a different player possession to possession. His shot is erratic. His defense ranges from cagey to not-so-cagey to please-get-him-out-of-the-game. Nevertheless, he provides some value against Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Paul Pierce. He is sometimes effective as a small ball 4.  He knows the system.

Ime Udoka would be an inexpensive buyout. The Spurs owe him a measly 1 million for the season, which, at this point, is mostly paid.

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If the Spurs bought out Ime Udoka, it would be a cold piece of business. Udoka would not be playoff eligible.

Business is business, but that’s a lousy thing to do to a guy, especially one who conducts himself as a professional.

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Jacque Vaughn makes more money than Udoka, if only by a smidge. But in this economy, the distance between a smidge and a smudge is short.

JV, if waived, would not be playoff eligible, but I’m not sure who would want him. His main value to this year’s squad is as special assistant to George Hill. JV is a coach-in-waiting. And then there is the question of value.

Ginobili and Mason can each run point in emergency situations. Is there a moment in the future when we say, “Man, I wish the Spurs could bring in JV to ice this thing.”  I don’t see it.

JV and Ian Mahinmi are locks as playoff inactives.

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Drew Gooden is not a good defender; Joe Smith is not much better.

Smith is a finesse player. A big softy. You know that.

Drew Gooden is not a soft defender, he’s just not good. Stinks, in fact.

Both players constitute an offensive addition. And on offense, they’d make an impact.

Defense aside, both players would improve the team.

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As my friend Bruno points out, Gooden is Luis Scola with a bad beard.

Gooden: 27 years old, 6’10″ PF, averages 13.1/8.7 in 29.5 mpg this year.
Scola: 28 years old, 6’9″ PF, averages 12.5/8.4 in 29.4 mpg this year.

Yes, that Luis Scola.

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Tim Duncan is playing with right quad tendonosis.

Drew Gooden has a lame groin.

Manu Ginobili is my favorite Argentinean injury waiting to happen.

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If the Spurs sign Mensah-Bonsu, they’ll have to make a decision with him and Hairston.  Should they finish the season in San Antonio or Austin?

Add a wrinkle if they sign Gooden and Mensah-Bonsu. Who makes the active list?

It’s actually a decision to be made sooner than later. For example, if Popovich plans to dress Mensah-Bonsu later, he needs playing time now. Same for Gooden.

Popovich loves veterans. But maybe this year’s inactive list should look something like Hairston, Mahinmi and Oberto. Or Udoka, Mahinmi, Oberto.

I’m crazy.

Inactive: Hairston, Mensah-Bonsu, Mahinmi.

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I’m not crazy.

Is Ime Udoka really that good? Didn’t LeBron James abuse him two games ago?

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Fabricio Oberto is a crafty player.  He moves the ball. He works himself into open space and plays easy to get. “Hey guys, I’m available. Pass me the ball for an easy lay-in.”  He runs a nice two man game with Manu Ginobili. His heart was made in Argentina.

  • Jimbo

    For all of Popovich’s greatness, his lack of flexibility is his most glaring weakness. He sticks with “proven” mediocre players such as Oberto when a young stud like Pops is waiting to be unleashed.

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Timothy Varner

    I’m not sure, Jimbo.

    If I were Popovich, I’d waive Mensah-Bonsu in favor of Gooden. It’s really not that hard.

    If I were Holt, I would not like paying guys to disappear.

    I’m about as pro Pops Mensah-Bonsu as one can get, but Drew Gooden is a pencil tip away from a double-double.

    Really, the story here is that the Spurs are getting a lot of bang for their buck out of Austin.

  • Rick Ashford

    Although it is the more expensive solution, the one that (otherwise) makes the most sense is paying Jacques Vaughn to go away. He might even accept a tiny buyout amount if you promised to turn around and hire him immediately as an assistant coach. That keeps him around to mentor Hill (without going through the motions of pretending he might play), while freeing up the roster spot for Gooden.

    I agree that Gooden is immediately better, but you have to question whether we’d be just renting him for the stretch run, or actually getting a new addition to our long-term plans.

    If it’s the former, then you have to keep PMB. If you lose both players and don’t win the championship, you’ve mortgaged away the future for nothing.

    If they drop PMB, they’d better feel really secure about being able to resign Gooden after this year (or signing somebody else of his caliber), or this could come back to bite them in the future.

  • Mason

    I find it interesting that the day Timmy comes back, Spurs score the the fewest points out the 18 teams that played yesterday. Dumping the ball into Tim every trip down the court doesn’t work as effectively as it use to. They need to get up and down the court. Play more Hairston/Pops and less Udoka/Oberto

  • agutierrez

    As we approach the playoffs, I think our biggest weakness is someone who can make “stars” we are likely to face (Kobe, Carmelo, Aldridge, Josh Howard, Artest and if we’re lucky enough to get to the finals, Lebron, Pierce) work their asses off on the offensive end. Bruce is no longer that guy on a nightly basis. Neither Gooden nor Smith is that guy. So why not try Hairston and Pops for a few games to see if they have it in them. We may find out that they are not the guys to do it, but we already know that the guys we have (plus Gooden and Smith) are not. If we can’t at least slow those named above down, we’re not going very far in the playoffs.

  • gospurs44

    Pop doesn’t want any player to be bigger than the team. Pop saw all the press Pops got the night before and didn’t want to give him to much run and get big headed. I think that’s the reason Pops only got 7 minutes when he could have gotten 12-15. I’ve thought this for years and people think I’m crazy but I think Pop is overrated as a basketball coach. His first 2 championships were won with 2 Hall of Famers in the middle. I think “500 other coaches” could’ve won with David and Tim in the midddle. With that being said I do think Pop is a great psychologist. He holds training camp in the country of his franchise player, he has his team do yoga in the middle of training camp, takes his entire team to the Holocaust museum, he gives his 3 best players a night off against a potential playoff foe even if it may end up costing his team home court advantage, etc.. His “genius”, not that I like that word because I’m not a Pop fan, is the effect he has on his players off the court.
    After watching the game last night I’m not so sure about Hairston. He is a scrappy player who can play a little “d” and will get you hustle points. As for his offensive, he can’t create his own shot and his outside shooting is average at best. The problem is that makes him just like every other bench player we have.

  • Jimbo

    Tim – I was just suggesting that Pops should have played more in the last game and not that Pops is better than Gooden. Let’s face it – we will probably need an athletic big man to win a championship this year – personally I cannot see this squad beating either the Lakers, Cavs or Celtics as presently constituted in the playoffs, especially without home-court.

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Timothy Varner

    Oh, my bad.

    Then we agree.

  • Latin_D

    gospurs44: Since Pop’s not the team’s psychologist, you basically said that he’s great at managing his players, keeping them rested, focused, and helping create a sense of group/team in them.

    That’s exactly what a great coach is meant to be like. There are no 500 coaches like Pop in the league, in fact I think he and Phil are the top 2. I long for the day that Pop has to coach a team without the Big Three – if he doesn’t retire with Duncan, that is.

  • D Counts

    Even if we did sign Gooden and waive a current player…will Gooden be healthy enough to contribute? He’s been bothered by that groin injury for much of the season hasn’t he?

    Wouldn’t that mean he would need time to completely heal and then time to learn the “system”? Do we have enought time before the playoffs start to get him integrated? I’m not saying he’d be a big contributor on offense but defensively he’d need to learn the schemes right? If he’s not injured then nevermind but I don’t remember seeing anywhere that he’s fully recovered.

  • gospurs44

    latin_D: great manager of players yes, great x’s and o’s basketball coach, in my opinion no.
    I wouldn’t long for that too much because I don’t think he does. Like I’ve said before 2 HOF 7footers/the big 3 can cover up a lot of team/coaching deficiencies.

  • Christian

    Not a great x’s and o’s guy? You’re telling me all those memories of Pop drawing up plays for end of game situations were just a figment of my imagination? His greatness transcends trivial labels. Have you seen our roster this year and are you aware of how many games our big three have actually played together? What other coach could do what he’s done with what we’ve had to work with this year? Definitely not 500.

  • Duaneo

    I agree with latin_D that Pop is a great coach. I see where gospurs44 is coming from, but I ask you this, who is a great x’s and o’s coach if Pop doesn’t qualify?
    Certainly Phil Jackson isn’t. Having Jordan than Kobe+Shaq helps out a coach a lot. Phil didn’t exactly wow me in the finals last year and Doc Rivers certainly is not a good coach.
    I think being a good coach is more than just drawing up plays, its getting your players to buy into a certain concept, to play with heart/desire every night, and being able to control egos.

  • Latin_D

    As Christian said, gospurs44, if Pop isn’t a great X’s and O’s coach, then who is? It’s true that sometimes the plays he draws don’t work, but that’s inevitable. Having watched others teams execute last-minute plays, I can honestly say that the Spurs are in the elite in that aspect. (Of course, having veteran teams used to play together probably helps.)

    Also, the team’s commitment to defense starts with him, and there’s plenty of proof of that. How important a factor was that in our 4 rings?

    I wonder about people who criticize Jackson for winning with Jordan and Kobe/Shaq. That’s true, but I honestly don’t think just any coach could pull it off. Great players have humongous egos, and balancing them is key in dynasties like those. And for the record, when Jackson came back to the Lakers the team was a complete disastre, and three seasons later they made the NBA Finals. Just sayin’.

  • gospurs44

    I just believe great players make great coaches. Phil’s last year in LA, before Rudy, they were 34-48 and didn’t make the playoffs. The year he came back they were 42-40. Why? besides Kobe, no players. The reasons they made it to the finals are 1) their draft picks have developed(something ours don’t do. Why? Coaching maybe?)and most importantly they were given Pau Gasol. Would Phil have coached the team after Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, etc. to a championship? No, because they didn’t have players.
    Look, Pop does some great things and maybe it’s my personal dislike for him that skews my judgement, but he wouldn’t have won championships without David or Tim. Had the Spurs not won the Tim lottery how many championships would we have?

  • ThatBigGuy

    gospurs44: Forgive me for sounding harsh, but saying Pop is not a great X’s and O’s is completely ridiculous. Next time you watch a Spurs game, pay attention when Pop calls a timeout. The team ALWAYS gets a wide open shot coming out of the timeout. That’s X’s and O’s. His delegation of minutes for his stars during the season is X’s and O’s. We never blow close games at the end due to coaching errors. That’s X’s and O’s. His use of the Hack-A-Shaq, with a lead, is X’s and O’s.

    Perhaps you can bring forth some examples rather than making general statements?

  • gospurs44

    ThatBigGuy: Scott Brooks or any other NBA coach can get you an open shot after a timeout, It’s up to the players to execute it. Having great players at the end of the game is what wins close games not Pops great coaching. Using Hack-a-Shaq is not having confidence in your defense and definitely not being a great coach. Every coach wants to delegate minutes some just don’t have the luxury Pop does because he has 3 of the top 30 players in the NBA.. Developing draft picks would be great coaching and name one draft pick since Tony Parker who stuck and done anything.
    Hey, I love the Spurs more than anybody. I definitely didn’t enjoy Friday’s blowout as others have stated. I want to see the young guys get garbage minutes in a blowout win instead of a blowout loss. I just hate Pop.

  • Duaneo

    gospursgo44, what currently employed / recently fired or retired coach would you rather have than Pop? :)

  • ezau

    Effin great site, thanks for this

  • ThatBigGuy

    gospurs44: Just a question…have you played or coached basketball at any level? It seems to me like you have no idea what a coach does. At the NBA level, the players don’t have to listen to the coach. Yet a myriad of players, including a pair of Hall of Famers, have repeatedly and respectfully deferred game decisions to Pop, to the tune of 4 rings. Bill Simmons wrote an article about this awhile back talking about the relationships between players and coaches, citing specifically the way Timmy, Manu, Tony, and the rest of the team actually listen and focus on him during timeouts. If the greatest power forward of all time believes his coach is worth listening to, I would say that makes the coach extremely knowledgeable.

    I’m still waiting on you to bring some specific things to the discussion.

  • http://meong.tumblr.com/ meong

    There are hits and there are misses. There are things that work at a certain time and there were the anticipated moves. As simple as that. That is how I see pop and the way he coaches these games.

  • Juan

    About the Simmons article TBG mentioned:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/081126&sportCat=nba

    “…what happens when a top player gets called over by coach when someone is shooting free throws.

    This can unfold one of three ways:

    A. Player runs over respectfully and seems genuinely interested in the coach’s wisdom. Watch what happens when Popovich calls over Duncan or Parker in a Spurs game. Total respect. They look like someone jogging over to a police officer.

    B. Player jogs over, doesn’t seem totally interested, but doesn’t want to seem like a jerk either. This usually sums up 75 percent of the league.

    C. Player does a double-take and his head kicks back briefly (like he’s thinking, “Really, I have to talk to this guy again???”). He saunters over disdainfully. When he reaches the coach, he makes eye contact for the first two seconds, then starts subconsciously pulling away (first with his eyes, then with his body leaning back toward the coach), and at about the six-second mark, he just starts walking back toward the court whether the coach is finished talking or not. Everything about the exchange says, “I’ve just had it with this freaking guy.”

    I mistakenly believed that Chris Paul and Scott had an “A” relationship but in the second half of Monday’s game, it was revealed that they were a “C.” At least right now. Translation: I am no longer sold on the 2009 Hornets. “

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