X

The NBA's Most-Traded Man: 'I'm Numb' from Moving Again, and Again

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2015

B/R

Drew Gooden has been traded six times and has played for 10 teams over the course of his 13-year NBA career. No active player has been dealt more than he has (Ronny Turiaf and Keith Bogans have each been traded seven times, but they are currently out of the league.) With the Feb. 19 trade deadline just around the corner, Gooden, now with the Washington Wizards, spoke with Bleacher Report about being traded and the impact it has on players—both on and off the court.

Bleacher Report: You’ve suited up for 10 teams. You’ve been traded six times. Does this time of year resonate with you in any way?

Drew GoodenI would say, where I’m at in my career, after numerous times going through a trade or the time or the window before a trade, I’m kind of numb to the feeling. I know it’s a business, and I learned it early in my career. I wasn’t a guy who got drafted and stayed with his team for five, six, seven years and then got traded. I was a guy who played half a season in Memphis and got traded 50 games into the season.

B/R: What was that like? Did you have any sort of idea that it was coming?

DG: I came into draft night with the possibility of getting traded. [Grizzlies general manager] Jerry West assured me that if I was available with the fourth pick, they were going to draft the best player available—whether it fit the system or not.

Coming in, my agent said, "Don’t get too comfortable with that hat." So even though I had the Grizzlies hat on, there was a possibility I might be getting traded.

Drew Gooden with then-Grizzlies general manager Jerry West in 2002.
Drew Gooden with then-Grizzlies general manager Jerry West in 2002.Joe Murphy/Getty Images

But I stuck it out, went through summer league, played my first couple of months with the Grizzlies. It seemed like it was going to work, [that I could] coexist with the other guys and play small forward. But eventually it didn’t work out.

The funny thing is, Jerry West had assured me again, when the trade deadline was coming up, that I wasn’t getting traded. ... That was the only time in my career when I was reassured that I wasn’t getting traded and it happened. 

B/R: There was a point where you played for three different teams in the 2008-09 season alone. You were also traded four times in a two-year span, between February 2008 and February 2010.

DG: During that time, I’m a productive player. I was still young; I was in my prime. I kind of thought to myself, "It’s not my character, I’m a good locker room guy, I’m coachable." So I kept asking myself, "What’s going on with me? Why can’t I find a home?"

At this point in my career, I think that’s where I’m at. Whatever situation I’m landing in, I’m not trying to fix any cards. Where I’m at is where I’m at. I’m going to fight my way through it.

When I was young, I didn’t understand that. I kept trying to be in the most helpful place for me, when sometimes, as players, you have to look in the mirror and say, "It’s not always going to be comfortable."

B/R: Through all this, was there a standard way you were informed that you had been traded, or was it different every time?

DG: Usually it’s a phone call from the GM. It’s a phone call from the agent. It’s a phone call from someone in our organization.

I’ve been hearing some horror stories—which, thank God, never happened to me—about guys being in the airport, and they look at the ticker at the bottom of the screen and they see their name in a trade.

There’s never a right way to tell somebody that they’ve been traded. Every place that I was at, I wanted to be there.

The trade to Cleveland [from Orlando] was the only time I really spoke up and said, "This isn’t the right situation for me. I think it’s time for us to part ways." That was more my call, which landed me in Cleveland, than any of the other trades. All the other trades caught me by surprise.

Of all the times Gooden has been traded, only once, when he was in Orlando, did he ask for it.
Of all the times Gooden has been traded, only once, when he was in Orlando, did he ask for it.Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

B/R: Was it difficult being the new guy on another team?

DG: You would think it would be, but every player is different. I’m a charismatic guy; I get along with all my teammates and keep in contact. I’m a social butterfly. Once I get somewhere, I can make myself at ease and start the team bonding and build a relationship with my team, all my teammates, all the coaches, all the coaching staff. 

B/R: Was there any situation that was especially difficult to adjust to?

DG: It always just came natural to me. My main focus, whenever I put on a new uniform, was just to provide energy. ... There was one thing I knew I could never mess up, and that was going hard. That’s what I really kind of relied on to get me through the transition period between two teams.

B/R: Is there a certain way you’re supposed to act on or off the court to help ease yourself into whatever dynamic your new team has set up?

DG: I was never a guy who came into a new situation on a team being vocal right away. I kind of monitored the situation, observed the situation and then found my role throughout that process. Does this team need a vocal leader? How can I affect this team in a positive way to help it get some wins? I had to learn from an early age to be observant of how to fit in right away and how to make a transition a lot more smoothly by adjusting to a role or filling a role that a team needed.

Gooden has been a popular fella wherever he's gone.
Gooden has been a popular fella wherever he's gone.Alex Brandon/Associated Press

B/R: Rumors have become a big part of the trade game. Does hearing or reading your name in possible trade scenarios impact you at all?

DG: Well, when you talk about a trade rumor 10 years ago, it was 85 percent, maybe even more, just a rumor. [Now] they have to read these rumors on HoopsHype, Bleacher Report, RealGM. It’s maybe flip-flopped; it’s like 85 percent true now that [the trade] is going to happen or that the deal is on the table.

You hear about a guy on the trade block, and he’s on the trade block. Someone reads your name on these websites that are getting updated every 30 minutes. It’s totally opposite from when I was getting traded, I believe.

B/R: People often forget you guys have real lives that are impacted by these moves. So, what happens in the immediate aftermath of a trade? What’s it like relocating and saying goodbye to a place you’ve established ties to?

DG: When I got traded from Cleveland, it was at a time when I felt like this was my home. We just went to the Finals the previous year. I really sank my teeth into that community. I had a reading center there locally. You got players who created themselves a home, a second home, in these NBA cities. So it was a tough pill to swallow when I went to Chicago.

Guys have families. They have homes. I kind of started my career on the trade block, so I’ll tell you what: The only advice I have for that is have a good connection with a rental furniture company or a good place to store all your furniture in the offseason.

B/R: Do you place a premium on stability, having been moved multiple times in your career?

DG: Not really. I wouldn’t change my experience for anything. It made me the person I am today. Not just on the court but off the court.

The relationships that I’ve built and the connections and the network that I have created playing on these multiple teams, playing for these multiple coaches and assistant coaches—I wouldn’t give that back for anything, because I believe that’s going to prepare me for my next step, whether that’s going to be on the floor coaching or in an office doing some type of management work.

I have a big Rolodex of numbers in my phone. I’ve played with six No. 1 picks. I’ve played with multiple Hall of Famers. I’ve played with multiple All-Stars. If I ever need to throw a charity event, or if I have a party or a wedding, there are going to be a lot of NBA faces around.

Gooden has indeed played with plenty of superstars—including future Hall of Famers like LeBron James.
Gooden has indeed played with plenty of superstars—including future Hall of Famers like LeBron James.Joe Murphy/Getty Images

B/R: Is being traded something that gets easier, or is it something players just come to accept as a fact of life?

DG: Once it happened once, that was the shock. But like anything else, we’re all human. We’ll be able to adapt to whatever that situation is.

If you want to play and have goals in this league like I did—I had a goal that I wanted to play multiple years in this league—you suck it up, you keep working hard and the wind will carry you where it needs to carry you, in the direction you need to be.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.