Auld Lang Syne

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 25, 2010 under Commentary | 6 Comments to Read

“I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot?’ Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?”

We’re more than a month removed from the Butler-Haywood trade, and it’s already easy to forget that it was also the Howard-Gooden trade.

Josh’s exile from Dallas was long-awaited and highly anticipated by some, but for all of his struggles late in his Maverick career, his six and a half year stint with the team was undoubtedly a success. Could Howard have accomplished more as a Mav? Absolutely. Those shortcomings are well-documented, and hardly need to be revisited here. But the positives — his emergence, his All-Star appearance, his influence in the playoffs even as recently as last season — deserve numerous reminders. I can’t help but feel that his successes will always be overcast by his failures and limitations, which is a shame.

Whether we remember it now or not, there was a time where this guy meant something to Mavs fans. He stood as a pivotal component of the Mavs’ future, and he ended up that way…even if his final function as a Mav was to bring in two very good players.

Caron Butler took up some editorial space in the Washington Post to give a final goodbye to his fans in D.C. Josh Howard didn’t quite do the same, but the sentiment in a post on his blog seems equally sincere (via commenter ‘pau’):

I reflect fondly on my time in Dallas.

It was a wonderful experience. I was just talking to somebody earlier about how in my rookie year Marquis Daniels and I came in with people like Steve Nash, Dirk of course, Michael Finley, Tony Delk, Travis Best, Antawn Jamison.

Those were the veterans that I came up under so I was able to learn a lot from the jump. Then I went through my career with Don Nelson and Avery Johnson as my coaches, then the last two years with Rick Carlisle.

Coach Carlisle and I agreed on a lot of things and we had a great relationship. I wish the Mavericks the best. The trade did them good just like I think the trade did Washington good until I got hurt. I’m a fan of the game and I’m glad they’re out there playing hard, doing what they’re doing. I learned so much from playing under those coaches and with that team, so I have the utmost respect for Dallas.

I may not miss the step-back jumpers, but I will miss Josh.

Drew Gooden is a bit of a different story. He’s no stranger to being dealt, as he’s now playing for his ninth team in eight seasons. One: that’s ridiculous. Two: that’s incredibly unfortunate. Three: those of us that haven’t been in the NBA really can’t even begin to understand exactly what that’s like, to be uprooted so many times with the subtext of every move being that you’re not integral and you’re not good enough.

It’s a business. I know. I’m sure that as a player, you can feed yourself that line to make everything a little bit easier. But nine times in eight seasons? With a tenth likely on the way this summer? That’s tough. Gooden deals with it well (“But there’s been nothing bad about what happened for me, playing on a lot of different teams.”), and maybe it honestly doesn’t matter to him. Maybe he’s a true mercenary, a gun for hire that makes few judgments on the specifics of his employer.

I don’t buy it. Art Garcia of asked Gooden about his departure from the Mavs for (emphasis mine):

I was kind of upset because I committed myself to the team and I was so focused on winning and making a run to get in the playoffs. I knew how valuable that was and I wanted to do whatever it took to help the team accomplish that goal. I totally committed myself and bought into what coach (Rick) Carlisle was saying from the time he brought me in here. To leave that way, I was highly upset.

That doesn’t sound like “nothing bad” has happened for him, it sounds like he was leaving a situation and a team that he rather fancied. And that team, or at least its leader, fancied him too (from Marc Stein’s piece on Gooden for ESPN Dallas):

Asked if the Mavs miss Gooden’s contributions off the bench, Dirk Nowitzki said: “Hell, yeah.”

That’s quite the glowing endorsement for Drew’s service as a Mav. And he was so close to coming right back to Dallas a la Ilgauskas, but it wasn’t in the cards. Gooden’s path continues to go where it’s always taken him: around the NBA to stop after stop, with teammate after teammate, playing for coach after coach.

Gooden was only a Maverick for about half a season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate what he did for the Mavs. As with Howard, I think there’s a natural inclination with Gooden to point out what he can’t do without proper respect for what he can. He was able to play some center for the Mavs, which was absolutely crucial while Erick Dampier was sidelined with various injuries. He didn’t help the Mavs to a huge win streak during that time, but he helped Dallas to tread water at a particularly vulnerable time. Pretty important.

Neither Howard nor Gooden will see their number hanging from the rafters, and frankly the thought is a bit ridiculous. Each does deserve the appropriate amount of kudos, though, even a month removed from their Maverick exits.

  • db

    I really like the respect you at times show for players who are maligned or ignored. Of course, these people are highly paid professionals but they are nevertheless still human. That’s why i really don’t appreciate so many people talking about Dampier only as a possible trade asset, by the way…

  • Cynthia

    Although he frustrated the hell out of me many times, Josh was a good player and I (for one) always liked him. I wish him nothing but the best, but the trade was in the best interest for this team. As far as Drew….I really HATED to see him go and was very much hoping we would get him back. When we first signed him I thought “oh no!” because he had ALWAYS been so goofy. I NEVER really appreciated his game UNTIL he wore MAVERICKS blue. But he was awesome when he played here and brought a TON of enery and toughness to this team. Even when we played the Clips although I really wanted us to win, I still wished Drew well. He seems like a great guy and he definitely knows how to ball. Hopefully he’ll (and a lot of MFFLs too) will get his wish and he’ll be back here next season. I’m keeping my fingers crossed on that one! In the meantime…all the best to Drew and Josh!

  • Johnson

    I feel you, Drew. I do hope whoever read this comment could ever pass the message to him. It’s not only so unfair for the players but for the fans too. We would like to grow fonder with each other as every season goes by. Just like Bird with Boston, Magic with LA, Jordan with Chicago, even Laimbeer, even though he’s not a hall of famer, the fans in Detroit can have this emotional bond and soulful relationship with the individuals. Worse, he got game you know!!! It’s not like he’s a bitching queen in the locker room or inconsistent all the time or he had issues with law. This trend has to be stopped. I don’t know how, maybe someone could teach him how to suck up the management.

  • TG

    I saw the Mavs play the Clippers last Tuesday. Gooden was definitely playing w/ a chip on his shoulder. I think he finished close to 25-25 plus some steals, blocks, and assists. He even managed to get Dirk thrown out!

    I’d still rather have Heywood, but I think they will miss Gooden’s experience come playoff time

  • JLeon

    I hate to say this, but I have to question that the blog post was actually written by Josh. I’ve interviewed Josh a couple of times and have heard plenty of interviews from him, and I feel very confident in saying that he never spoke like this. I even have a friend still in the media business who was almost hired by Josh to help improve his media savvy. This was while he was with the Mavericks. I don’t doubt the sentiment expressed here, but I am cynical on players trying to improve their reputation going into free agency.

    From the short amount of time I was around Josh, I thought he seemed like a nice guy. He was quiet and somewhat guarded, but he came across as a genuinely good guy. I think he’s a really good player, and I hope he can get back on track next season. I agree with you, Rob, that those step-back jumper won’t be missed.

    • Rob Mahoney

      @JLeon: I think you’re absolutely right. Out of all the player blogs and player websites out there, I don’t know of many players that actually pull the whole thing off on their own. Rod Benson, I’m assuming, but he’s not NBA-level. I’m sure there are a few, but they’re certainly rare. But you nailed it with the sentiment, I think; just because someone else is helping him put his thoughts to virtual paper doesn’t mean the feeling isn’t there, and I also agree that it certainly doesn’t hurt his reputation to not come off as being petty.