In a continuing series of one-on-one interviews, Times-News staff writer Duane Rankin talked with Chicago Bulls forward Drew Gooden before and after he played against his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, on Sunday.
Gooden was the first player Rankin interviewed for these sessions before the 2007-08 training camp. Gooden played 3-Â½ seasons with the Cavaliers before becoming part of a three-team, 11-player deal that sent him to Chicago before last month’s trade deadline.
Rankin and Gooden discussed what he’s trying to give the Bulls, who play the Cavaliers at home tonight, what he left behind in Cleveland and what it’s like now to play against his former teammate, LeBron James. To see the interview, go to GoErie.com/basketball.
Part I (Before the game)
Q: How does it feel to be back wearing different colors?
A: Uh, it’s different. Being here for four years and seeing from where the organization has developed. Coming from having blue seats in (Quicken Loans Arena) to having everything color coordinated and matching around here now. I’ve seen it all. Playing on a different team, this will be a first for me.
Q: How have things changed for you? I watched the Houston game on television. I watched the Dallas game on television. What adjustments are you trying to make in your game?
A: Just getting back to being more of a low post presence I brought to the table here (in Cleveland). I think I was just a guy who rebounded, knocked down open shots, but I think this team can use me down low to score the basketball, but other than that, every team needs energy and competitiveness and I’m going to bring that also.
Q: I saw a stretch either in the Houston game or Dallas game and you were clapping in the fourth quarter trying to get guys going. Is that what you’re talking about in terms of bringing energy?
A: Yeah. Yeah. Because I think more than anything, the Bulls have heard more negative things than positive things this year. So I think as far as the new guys and myself coming from a winning situation, we need to come here and try to shine some light on this situation. I think it will help the guys on this team, especially the younger guys.”
Q: What kind of reaction you think you’re going to get, honestly.
A: We’ll find out tonight. For the fans that do boo, let them know that I got blood, sweat and tears in that Cleveland Cavaliers uniform. You can never replace that.”
Q: This is the first of four games against Cleveland. What are your thoughts before this one?
A: Being in this league now for quite some time, I’m not over-anxious. I’m not excited. I’m not nervous. I’m just ready to go out and approach this game like any other game, which I feel is a good sign and I think shows some maturity on my part because if this was a couple of years back, I wouldn’t be able to stand still right now.
Q: Thanks Drew. Appreciate it. Good luck.
A: Yeah. Yeah. Thanks.
(The fans cheered Gooden when was introduced as a starter. He scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 95-86 win for Cleveland. He’s averaging 12.7 points and 10.2 rebounds in his first six games with the Bulls).
Part II (After the game)
Q: At one stretch in the game, you had contested one of LeBron’s shots. You walked all the way to the sidelines (to get a drink of water). He followed you all the way to the sideline.
A: Yeah. Yeah.
Q: What was that all about?
A: It’s just about being competitive on the other side of the ball and watching those guys out there now. You’re comfortable, but at the same time, it’s family out there. I feel like this is my family the whole time I’ve been here so, it’s kind of tough.
Q: You had an offensive foul called on you (in the fourth quarter). Does that call get made if you’re wearing a Cavs jersey?
A: Aaah haaa haaa haaa haaa (Smiling). I might not respond to that. But I’ve been peeping how things are different as far as play calls.
Q: What was it like for you (Sunday after the game)? You got cheers at the start of the game. You were a little concerned about that.
A: I’m just happy the fans appreciated my hard work and my efforts I put in this Cavs uniform, but even though I’ve been traded, that Eastern Conference championship banner is not going anywhere and I was a part of that. I left my stamp on this organization and I did something this team and this organization had never done. So they can’t take it away from me.
Q: You guys got three more games against Cleveland. Is every game going to be like this?
A: Umm. We’ll have to make some adjustments on No. 23 (James, who scored 37 points in the game). We can’t let him roam as freely has he did.
Q: Once again, I appreciate it Drew.
A: No problem.