Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 12/8/11
MILWAUKEE By all accounts, last season was a tremendous disappointment for the Milwaukee Bucks. The feeling was mutual for Drew Gooden.Signed to a five-year, 32 million contract before the season, the Bucks were looking to Gooden to provide some offensive fire-power, add some muscle down low and help Milwaukee get to the foul line more frequently.Gooden, though, never got into a groove last season. He was limited to just 35 games because of a number of ailments,like a bout of plantar fasciitis in his left foot. The injury wasn't well-known to most but Gooden did his homework."This injury isn't a joke," Gooden said. "I never knew about it, I never heard about it but I could write a book about it right now."He mentioned other players who dealt with it, like Shawn Marion of the Mavericks and his new teammate, Beno Udrih, who dealt with plantar fasciitis for two years. Tyreke Evans of the Kings had his own bout with the injury, too."I was watching TV the other day and they were talking about Tyreke's numbers dropping from 20 to 17 and what happened to him and in the back of my head I was saying plantar fasciitis, (and)that's what happened'," Gooden said.Despite the injury, Gooden still performed when he was able to work his way into the rotation. He averaged 11.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, not far off his career numbers.That effort gave Gooden and the Bucks hope moving into the 2011-12 season, especially with extra time to heal due to the lockout."I was out there on one leg, basically," Gooden said. "That's the fact. My numbers were just as similar as they were in my career. That's some good hope to look forward to."On the eve of training camp, Gooden took relief in the opportunity to play a second season under head coach Scott Skiles. Having played for nine teams in his career, this will mark just the second time that he is going through two consecutive training camps with the same head coach.Along with knowing the plays, the style and the system, Gooden will also benefit from having familiar teammates, even though the Bucks' roster will have a significantly different look than it did a year ago at this time.Gooden won't have too much time to get comfortable with his new teammates. Training camp runs for just two weeks before the Bucks open with back-to-back games Dec. 26 and 27."We know now how to collectively come together and get that chemistry," Gooden said. "It starts in camp. It's going to be a fast, fast season with a lot of games. It's not going to be a snail's pace trying to get to know each other, it's going to have to happen right away."There was some thought that Gooden might find himself waived or released once the new collective bargaining agreement was settled. The CBA includes an amnesty clause that would allow teams to waive a player without their salaries being applied to the salary cap.The length and value of Gooden's contract made him a likely candidate, especially considering his performance last season. But Milwaukee general manager John Hammond said earlier this week that the team would not use the clause, which is only available for one-time use on contracts in place when the lockout ended on a player this season.For Gooden, that was quite the vote of confidence."As a player it gives you motivation and comfort that you still have a future here; the team still has hope in you," Gooden said. "You should have some fire, you should have an incentive to go out there and to continue doing what you're doing."With the labor negotiations over, Gooden, like the rest of his fellow players, is looking forward to getting back on the court and back to work. But he admitted that players are prepared for a possible backlash from fans, many of whom will be bitter over the 149-day lockout that delayed the start of the season and wiped 480 games from the league calendar."I just want to say right now, to let the fans know that this wasn't our choice," Gooden said. "We're defending the guys who played before us, the Wilt Chamberlin's, the Magic Johnson's, the Larry Bird's, the Jerry West's ... guys that didn't even have social security and medicare while they were playing. We're trying to just keep carrying the torch, generation after generation."It has nothing to do with us being greedy or selfish as players, it's just us trying to carry the torch as players. We came a long way. We just don't want to keep giving back and giving back because we came so far as players and as a union."We're going to get some backlash, of course. If I was a season-ticket holder or a die hard fan ... I'm losing money now, too. If you're really a true fan of the game, you should know the business side. If you know the business side like we do, you would have done the same thing."
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