Player Capsules 2012, #139-141: Chris Andersen, Nate Robinson, Drew Gooden

As our summer mainstay, Aaron's writing a 370-part series discussing almost every notable player who was -- as of last season -- getting minutes in the NBA. Intent is to get you talking, thinking, and appreciating the myriad of wonderful folks who play in our favorite sports league. Today we continue with Chris Andersen, Nate Robinson, and Drew Gooden.

• • •

Follow Chris Andersen on Twitter by trying to read his tattoos.

The thing that immediately comes to mind for Chris Andersen is the myriad of reports and stories we all had to sit through during the 2009 NBA Western Conference Finals. You know the theme, if you were there. There were these ubiquitous 5-10 minute fluff piece about Andersen, discussing his fall from grace due to drugs and his subsequent rise out of the depths to be a productive player on a contending Nuggets team. It was a classic story of redemption and coming back from the doldrums. After getting caught up in the NBA's crazy lifestyle, Andersen came back to earth and cleaned up, so to speak. Got his affairs in order. Got everything back together. Theoretically.

In practice, though, I'm not really sure it's that simple. And it's not because of some unwarranted, unsupported "he's still using" tripe. I don't think he is. The problem runs deeper. While it made for a touching story on ESPN to highlight his road to recovery, I beg you to read this 2008 feature on Andersen's ruined relationship with his mother. It details Andersen's rise and fall in gruesome detail, discussing his upbringing (his mother, Linda Holubec, skinned snakes for belts and cooked the meat to feed their family, living in a house that was quite literally falling apart), Andersen's rise to the NBA lifestyle (and Holubec's attempts to help him get his finances in order and fix his life before the fall), the general lack of remorse from Andersen upon being caught with the drugs (a somewhat mature realization that absolutely nothing would've happened if he hadn't gotten caught), and -- this is the important part -- the fact that him and his mother were completely estranged at the time he re-entered the NBA.

The thing that bugs me about this story is that all it would take is one feature on Andersen and his mother for the uneasiness to cease. As it stands, wouldn't you think someone would've revisited this relationship and figured out if it was fixed if it actually was? I realize that you don't want to get caught up in old patterns, but nothing in that heart-wrenching story screams "old patterns" with his mom -- his mother tried to help him out of his rut, completely relocating her family to try and help him before the drug test destroyed him. According to that, as of over four years ago, Andersen and his mother had no real contact and no real relationship anymore. After all that happened in their lives, after all the promises that Andersen making it big would help his mother escape the poverty she worked hard to leave behind... nothing. Seeing a story about a former addict who is off the wagon is one thing. It's heartwarming fluff. Seeing a story about a former addict whose lifestyle has fractured his relationship with his mother isn't quite so fluffy, and begins to get more true-to-life.

Because the road back from addiction isn't simple either. It's fraught with constantly being thrown back into the habits and constant adversity. And it's cursed with the worst end-of-the-road hangover possible. That realization when you reach the end that nothing will ever really be the same. You'll never be the innocent person you were before you were consumed. You'll never fully repair those broken bonds and fractured friendships. You make a new life, because your old life is broken beyond repair. And the real moral of any true addiction story isn't one of return and recovery, but one of change and advancement. Of becoming a new person rather than a shallow imitation of the person you were before the addiction. I've never been addicted to anything of note, but I've known way too many people who have to really accept the super-happy recovery angle with a straight face. I like the sentiment of featuring Andersen as a recovered junkie, and as with seemingly everyone, I thought the story was heartwarming and fun. But dark sides are dark sides, and they shouldn't be erased for the sake of a good story.

One last thing. Andersen is getting old. His game is deteriorating badly, and he doesn't have his legs anymore. The insane block rates are becoming pedestrian. His lessening athleticism has impacted his rebounding. He's essentially a veteran's minimum player now, and as his body continues to fail him, he's only going to get worse. As his game declines, it seems the general ability of NBA fans to forgive transgressions has declined in kind. I refer of course to the not-so-ongoing investigation into Andersen's connection with sexual images of children. The problem is, he was never actually charged with anything, and the investigation seemed to unveil little more than a crazy fan setting Andersen up and harrassing him. But that didn't really stop the petty barrage of accusations and jokes about Andersen as a horrible monster. Which made me think a bit about our ability to forgive. Sometimes forgiveness is fungible. Oftentimes, it's only as legitimate as the context in which it's granted. Andersen was on a good team, and playing well. So we saw fit to celebrate his triumphs. Now he's a waste of money, and we can't resist piling on -- even if the reasons are far less than they used to be. Sort of odd, a bit sad, and all too human. Ways of the world and all that, I suppose.

• • •

Follow Nate Robinson on Twitter at @nate_robinson.

Nate Robinson is the electric boogaloo of NBA players. In case you aren't familiar, the term "Electric Boogaloo" is a way-back reference to an absolutely ridiculous sequel from the 80s. Specifically "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo." The movie was an absurd follow-up to the generally forgotten "Breakin'", a film about breakdancing that gave Ice T his film debut (and a role he retrospectively calls "completely wack.") The first part of the trilogy (yes, there's actually a Breakin' 3) is your everyday average 80s dancing film -- lots of parachute pants, stupid dance numbers, et cetera. The second part, though, is kind of special. A tour de force in tomfoolery. I can pretty confidently say there's no movie on the face of the earth that's more emblematic of ridiculous 80s movies than Electric Boogaloo. Seriously. It's been a long time since I've seen it, so I had to look it up, but the main characters are named Turbo and Ozone. The villain is called "Evil White Man." Every car in the movie seems to have hydraulics so they'll bob up and down during the dancing scenes. There's dance fighting. It's one of the most abject failures of a film I've seen in my life, and I still found myself amused and entertained by the sheer audacity of it.

The thing with Nate Robinson is that, although he's a pretty bad NBA player, he's got the same guilty pleasure gene that Breakin' 2 featured in full. Lots of weird stuff. There's the Shrek/Donkey stuff with Glen Davis. There's the seemingly random, unpredictable disregard for his teammates where Robinson will suddenly go full Iverson for a possession or two and try to put every team in the universe on his back. There's the dancing on the bench, something he became famous for to fans at the Oracle this past season. There's the fact that he's one of the first NBA player-bloggers ever. He's boisterous, confident, and often completely out of his gourd. And even for someone used to analyzing players solely on their merits, that's fun to watch. Sure, his style of play is pretty patchwork, and just as prone to ruining a team as it is conducive to helping it. Lots of ball-domination -- he tends to try and play 1-on-5 without the requisite skill to do it -- and a really high motor. Shot selection is iffy, not necessarily in the location of the shots he takes (35% career three point shooter) but in the blatant disregard for the open man and the "I'm going to score or get decked" mentality he brings to the table.

One underheralded thing about Robinson? His defense. He's athletic and strong, as anyone who's seen pictures of Robinson as a kid would know. (And yes, Nate -- you as an elementary school child were without question more muscular than most adult human beings are now. You're correct.) He uses that athleticism relatively well, and he's a bit of a pest. Just as he's prone to overexposure on the offensive end, he'll often get caught on defense with silly fouls and poorly timed steal attempts. But on the whole he's not a bad defender, and in a good scheme with a proper delineation of his goals, he can be a positive defensive player off the bench. All that said, I'm honestly completely at a loss to figure out what he'll be like in Chicago this season. I'm not even sure who's going to get the starter's minutes. Hinrich and Robinson are both incredibly flawed players, and Hinrich is old enough with enough prior mileage that he's probably going to be worse going forward than he is now. They're a fine selection of backup guards-off-the-bench, but watching one of them start for a quarter of the season is going to be rough for Chicago fans. I almost hope Robinson gets it, simply because (like Breakin' 2) there's some element of joy and absurdity to his game that gives him value beyond his relatively subpar play. With Hinrich, not quite sure you get that. Even if he's a slightly better player.

Besides. His middle name is Cornelius. How can you bench a guy named Cornelius?

• • •

Follow Drew Gooden on Twitter at @DrewGooden.

I watched a bunch of Synergy footage last night, trying to find evidence of his overwhelming defensive deficiencies. I came to some conclusions. Drew Gooden is a bad defender, in a vacuum, and that's clear when you watch the tape. But for some weird reason, he always seems to find himself on patently solid defensive teams -- Gooden was a pretty important player on the 2007 Cavs team that made the finals, putting in decent-if-not-remarkable defense under Brown's defensive schemes. Now, granted -- Mike Brown has made a career out of being a magician. He creates defensive schemes that make limited players look like defensive savants, essentially placing their limits in a hat, waving a handkerchief, and throwing some glitter as they "vanish" into his right sleeve. He did the same with Gooden. And, in fact, Gooden has been pretty lucky -- he made his way to the Spurs in 2009, where his flaws were worked over by Gregg Popovich. He was poor on the 2010 Clippers.

Then he came to the Bucks, where Scott Skiles pulled a Mike Brown and helped him hide his problems -- at least a bit. He has the opposite problem Rajon Rondo has -- while Rondo's offenses have never quite indicated the level of praise he's bestowed, defenses relying on Gooden have never quite indicated the level of disdain he's attached to. He's not good -- as any cursory look at the defensive tapes would show, there are problems. Generally undersized at the five (where he played the majority of the 2012 season), tons of mental mistakes, and customarily he has extremely poor defensive +/- numbers. With Gooden on the court last season, the Bucks allowed a defensive rating that would've rated out as one of the league's worst -- with him off the court, they had a defense that hovered in the top 10. Rough going. But the tape also shows a defender who doesn't kill teams as much as his reputation would indicate. At all, really. He makes mental mistakes, but he has patently solid lateral movement and a well-developed sense of when to challenge and when to lay back. He does a decent job aggravating opposing big men, and he works hard. He isn't the singular reason that a good defense is good, but he isn't a player that you can't have on a good defensive team. With a good coach and players that can shade his limits, he actually can be a defensive positive.

On offense, he's not all that great. Actually, I'd argue that he gives most of the positives you get from his few defensive skills and his tertiary talents back with the negatives of his offense. He gets high scoring numbers but does so on a shooting percentage that's simply abhorrent with usage that shouldn't be half as high as it is, and his rebounding leaves much to be desired. His ability to sink a long shot helps convince coaches that he helps teams offensively, and this is true -- especially when playing center, Gooden's tendency to fade outside the paint helps take the largest member of the opposing team out of the paint, which generally opens things up for the guards. But unfortunately for his teams, this usually results in semi-open midrange shots for Gooden, which he takes with abandon. Making, as previously enumerated, very few. I think Gooden's offense is mainly why I dislike him -- defensively he isn't fantastic but he's passable in a prescriptive, well-considered defense. His passing is fine. His ball control is shockingly good for a center. But when it comes to his scoring? Simply awful. He takes too many shots, produces shaky and inefficient totals, and gets overrated due to his offensive prominence. Most people would call Gooden an offense-first player. In a world where he actually was using his talents effectively, he'd be a Varejao-type, using his lateral quickness to impact the floor defensively and rarely touching the ball on offense, only chipping in when needed. Alas, it isn't so. And thus, I don't like Gooden at all, and really wish he'd put it all together. At the age of thirty, that's probably not going to happen, but I suppose it's a remote possibility.

• • •

At the end of each post, I'll be scribing riddles for the next group. Whoever gets the most right will get a shout out at the end of the next post. Tweet me your answers at @docrostov, or post them in the comments. Nick D was the first to get 3/3 yesterday. Good work.

  • One of my friends once met Player #142 at Sky Harbor airport. He gave her free tickets. She says he's an incredibly nice guy.
  • Oh, God. Do I honestly need to talk about this guy? Prepare for an angry tirade. Will be a Player Capsule (Plus).
  • He may have derived some benefit from playing alongside Howard. But Player #144 isn't chopped liver, either.

Really busy today, hence the late capsules. Hopefully will be on time tomorrow, but we'll see. Adios.

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