Drew Gooden interview
The Cleveland Cavaliers, who last season were the Eastern conference Finals representatives, had a rough start to the season as various key players were either unsigned or injured. They're on track now, though, with a 25-20 record. Cavs power forward Drew Gooden is averaging 11.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, though he needs to get that 43.9% shooting up. InsideHoops.com met with Gooden about eight days ago, when the team was pretty healthy (since then, both Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao have suffered injuries). Here's what he had to say about some rough early-season waters.
InsideHoops.com: You guys had a rough start to the season, with injuries, and a few key guys staying unsigned for a while. Talk about getting through that.
Drew Gooden: Those type of things, later in the season you can fix, but early in the season, when you're trying to find your team's identity, which we were when we had everybody, to lose LeBron for those five games, or however many, that was tough. That was tough for the team to adjust, and you don't have your star player. And not having Larry [Hughes] at the same time. And now we have signed our restricted free agents, that we had this summer. It was tough. It was like our preseason was still going on.
InsideHoops.com: When certain guys are still unsigned, obviously when you're playing you can't think about that, you compete no matter who is around and who isn't, but are you also saying to yourself that eventually there will be extra support that you can rely on?
Drew Gooden: Yeah, you have to compete no matter what. You can't just wait and hope that the troops show up. We got guys that compete. we've been to the pinnacle of this game, which is the Finals. So we know what it takes to get there. If guys go down, we know we have to pick it up extra.
InsideHoops.com: And how does your mindset change, having gotten to the Finals once? Some teams have a goal just to make the playoffs, others would be happy to get back to the Finals again. Once you taste a near-championship it has to have a mental affect.
Drew Gooden: The goal, you always want to get in. Whether you're the first seed, the eighth seed, you want to get in. But getting there, you have to prepare yourself. And that's what the season is for. The deserving teams make the playoffs, the top eight in each conference. But at the same time, once you get there, you have to step it up another level. So it's tough to say you have to prepare yourself for playoff atmosphere basketball.
InsideHoops.com: Did you learn anything in particular in the Finals? Maybe something you didn't even expect to learn?
Drew Gooden: In the Finals, every possession counts. Every turnover, every possession counts. Going through each round, in the Finals it's even more valuable.