Sam Amick reports that Drew Gooden will play tonight and forever despite a bad, mysterious, mysteriously bad injury. It is projected as noble and righteous, with mention also being made as to the fact Gooden's own pocketbook needs some solid performance. (He's a free agent.)
And Gooden does offer plenty of good.
* He's a very good rebounder at power forward. He comes in as the best rebounder on the roster (a bit better than Jason Thompson overall, moreso on the defensive glass). Sacramento desperately needs rebounding help up front, even with Mikki Moore gone.
* He's a strong frontline scorer. Per minute, Gooden is a better scorer than every King but Kevin Martin. He's about even with Francisco Garcia and Andres Nocioni. Depending on how Nocioni and Garcia adapt and what line-ups Kenny Natt plays, scoring help is necessary. Gooden's a strong answer -- again, a bit more prolific than Thompson.
But there are some problems with the presence of Gooden.
* If you're cutting into playing time for Thompson or Spencer Hawes, you're a problem. Gooden will likely cut into playing time for Thompson (though Shock has been doing a fine job of that with foul trouble). Gooden's not old -- he's 27 -- but developing Shock & Hawes is a key priority for the rest of 2008-09. Benching them to watch a known quantity try to make himself money would be a mistake.
* If he plays, there's a chance the Kings sign him. I'm prejudging here in assuming I will not want the Kings to sign Gooden this summer. He could be a great fit. We don't know yet. But with limited free agent dollars, spending on an older far-from-elite power forward would be a mistake, I think. If Gooden doesn't play due to injury, the Kings wouldn't have any reason to re-sign him. If he plays and offers a minor spark, there's a chance they'll lock him up a la Bonzi Wells.
Positivity's the name of the game, though. Let's bring it back to a plus:
* Less small ball.
Nocioni did well at power forward against New Orleans. But the rebounding was a magnificent problem and might have cost Sacramento the game. With Gooden in place, you have three ACTUAL bigs to work with. That can keep Nocioni at the three, and perhaps Garcia at the one and two. Maybe that forces Bobby Jackson down to the one, which would be a major improvement for the team. Jackson has played as well as can be expected, but the team suffers immensely on defense when Bobby is forced to play the two-guard. A Jackson-Garcia combo in the backcourt -- with Martin, Nocioni or Donte Greene as the third wing -- can be effective on both ends. Jackson + Beno Udrih? Jackson + Will Solomon? Not going to work.
By playing Gooden, all the interchangeable wings move down a weight class. In my book, that's a huge bonus. Of course, this could have been solved without an extra big, considering Cedric Simmons and Ike Diogu are also on the roster. But it has been well-established that Natt would rather play his better players out of position (and suffer major hemorrhaging in team defense and rebounding) than play a big line-up. Maybe he has the right strategy; maybe Simmons and Diogu (and Shelden Williams before them) can't play. But I hold that tall ball would be an advantage for the Kings, given the skill level of our players.