Revenge of The Knuckleheads: Tim Thomas and Drew Gooden Coming Through

Alex McVeighSenior Analyst INovember 25, 2009

SAN ANTONIO - NOVEMBER 11:  Drew Gooden #90 of the Dallas Mavericks goes up for a shot against Matt Bonner #15 of the San Antonio Spurs during the game at AT&T Center on November 11, 2009 in San Antonio, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

When the Dallas Mavericks announced the sign-and-trade that brought Shawn Marion to Dallas, I was quite excited. Whatever else the Matrix might be, he's an exciting, athletic defender and an explosive scorer, and I was glad to see him coming to Dallas.

I wish I could have said the same about two newcomers, Tim Thomas and Drew Gooden.

Those two seemed like a dangerous mix for the Mavericks and their team chemistry, because let's face it, Thomas and Gooden weren't exactly known as teammates that everyone wanted to play with—as their combined 12 teams in 19 years in the league would attest to.

And it's not like they were bouncing around with cellar dwellers the whole time either. Thomas spent time with the Bulls and Suns, while Gooden was on the Bulls, the Cavs team that made it to the Finals and the Spurs last season.

But that's not what came to mind when I thought of the two.

For Tim Thomas it was two memories, both of which helped the Mavericks at the expense of his own teams.

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Number one: in the 2006 Western Conference Finals, Thomas decided it would be a good idea to taunt Dirk Nowitzki, and Dirk responded on the court, by dropping 50 points and helping the Mavs beat the Suns in 6 games.

Number two: in 2008, with the Clippers holding on to a two-point lead in the closing seconds against the Mavericks, Jason Terry turned the ball over with 27 seconds left in the game, seemingly clinching the Mavericks' fate.

Instead of dribbling most of the shot clock out, Tim Thomas decided to go for an ill-advised dagger from the elbow, instead bricking the shot, and setting up a buzzer-beating three-ball from Jerry Stackhouse, giving the Mavericks the win.

Both times, I sure was glad Tim Thomas wasn't on my team.

And now he is. I always liked his game, but he was just one of those guys who took more away from the team than he gave it, and that's the last thing the Mavericks need.

Drew Gooden was always more memorable for his obnoxious hairdos, whether it be the stripe of hair on the back of his head under his headband, the long Capt. Jack Sparrow-style beard, or the ridiculous hippie beard he wore for most of last season.

After being traded from the Cavs, he was waived by the Kings, picked up by the Spurs, then dropped from them after last season's defeat at the hands of the Mavericks.

When there were rumblings that Gooden would be the starting center for the Mavs coming into this season, I was not a happy camper.

So here the Mavericks are, with two "knuckleheads" fresh off the scrap heap, and these two players were supposed to play a role in getting the Mavs back to the top o the Western Conference.

You'll forgive me if I was skeptical.

When Thomas hurt his knee in a pickup game over the summer, and Gooden started the season taking boneheaded baseline jumpers, trying to take the ball upcourt, and then suffering an abdominal injury, it seemed the perfect time for a loud chorus of "I Told You So's."

But then a funny thing happened. Dampier got ill (well, that's not funny) and Tim Thomas got healthy.

All of a sudden these two knuckleheads are playing their butts off, and looking like they could be everything the Mavericks signed them for—and more.

Drew Gooden has been filling in for Dampier like a man possessed. Gone are the terrible baseline jumpers. Instead he's a double-double machine, tipping in misses at key moments, and providing the low post defense that Dampier has only given us every few games.

In the last five games, Gooden has pulled in 11, 14, 11, 16, 12 rebounds, including three, four, five, nine, and four offensive boards. I'd say that's a step up from Dampier's inconsistent ways.

He's also been close to lights out from the field, shooting 51% from the field, which would be much higher if it wasn't for a 4-16 outing against the Kings last week.

Drew Gooden is becoming the player that team's have been waiting to see for so long, and he's doing it when the Mavericks have needed the consistency he's provided at center.

More important than the numbers is the timeliness of Gooden's play. When the Mavs need a bucket that Dirk and Terry are unable to drain, Gooden often comes out of nowhere for the tip-in, giving the Mavs a huge momentum boost.

Thomas hasn't been putting up gaudy numbers like Gooden, mostly because he hasn't been given the minutes.

But he has been filling the role the Mavericks signed him for—a big body off the bench that can do some work on the low post, as well as hit the three.

At 6-10, Thomas has got a very underrated low-post game for a guy who is always (rightfully so) talked about as a gunner. Against the Warriors last night, he was posting up their small guys, even good defenders like Anthony Randolph, and finishing strong either with a nice jumper or a thunderous dunk.

Now, Thomas isn't exactly a lock down defender, but on smaller teams his size in and of itself is an advantage.  And while Thomas isn't shutting people down, he's definitely not giving up easy buckets either.

Now, if these two are your top players, there's not a chance you're going deep into the playoffs. But as role players—with Gooden as a backup center and Thomas as an 8th, 9th, 10th man—the Mavericks are getting production off the end of their bench, and as far as good teams go, that's something they certainly have.

It remains to be seen whether the two "knuckleheads" can keep up their torrid pace, but I for one have been impressed with their efforts. As the season progresses, maybe the rest of the West will be impressed (and that's how you rhyme, FYI) with the way they and the rest of the Dallas Mavericks are playing.


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