On the John
Goodbye to The Memory Maker
Originally published on the readjack.com blog, July 4, 2009
Say what you will about Ben Gordon. It’s been said before. Too short to defend two guards, too undisciplined to defend the point, too one-dimensional to run the floor, too streaky a shooter, too careless a ballhandler, too many pull-up threes that killed too many possessions, too much of a wild card to build a team around. It’s not quite 22 two’s, but then Ben Gordon was never quite what anyone wanted.
But here’s what he was: a legit NBA scorer, a dude who could break you without breaking a sweat, a threat for 30 any time his sweet stroke was in rhythm, one of the most accurate three point shooters in the franchise’s 43 years, and as of last season, the franchise leader in three pointers made.
So yeah, he made big shots. He made late shots. He made a whole bunch of threes. Most of all though, he made memories. Ultimately, that is where Ben Gordon’s Bulls legacy will lie.
Removing the Bulls-Celtics series for a moment, (and Derrick Rose, whose rookie year reel is packed), what is your strongest memory of the BG-era players? My Captain Kirk moment is fairly obscure—34 points in a double OT opening night loss to New Jersey in November of ’04—and remains only because I am diehard-diehard Bulls. My strongest memories of Deng, Noce, Duhon, Tyrus, Salmons, Eddy and Tyson are sparse for each and may be considered similarly obscure to the average fan.
But if you’ve been watching the Bulls and Ben Gordon since 2004-05, you probably remember: several game winners (my favorite was the MLK Day floater at MSG in 2005)…tons of fourth quarter magic…the Sixth Man trophy…the nine for nine against Washington…the 48 against Milwaukee…the 30 in Game 1 in 2005.
Then add the Boston series: Game 2’s UConn shootout…the trey to send Game 4 into double OT (accompanied by his junk grab)…and his 33 to close out Game 7.
That 33 point effort was our final Gordon memory, and it was emblematic of his career. His detractors point to his game-high total in a losing effort, his live-by-the-Ben die-by-the-Ben attitude, his 30.4% shooting. Even his usual late game heroics were reversed: after knocking down a pair from the stripe to pull the Bulls within three 89-86, the man once dubbed “Heir Gordon” converted only one of six shots, demanding the ball on every possession and failing to deliver.
On the other hand, Gordon got to the line a series-high fifteen times in Game 7, and knocked in all fifteen (including seven in the fourth). As great as Rose was in that series and in that game, he was unable to find the line even once in Game 7, a problem Gordon never had: the only dude on the team who could consistently create his own shot, get to the line, and get his points.
Of course, the days of Rose shooting only 25 freebies in a seven game playoff series (and throwing up three goose eggs), will soon be over. At this moment, the 2009-10 Bulls starting lineup has only one spot absolutely positively locked down, which is fine, since Rose is the future and really, really good at basketball. Gordon is a fantastic NBA scorer and game saver, but his role as both grew in part from the absence of anyone else to do the job. With Rose in the fold, the Bulls’ need for Gordon the Gunner is gone.
Still, I will miss #7, even if his departure ends up being for the best. That is probably the reality, because exciting as he was, Gordon created many problems for the Bulls. It wasn’t his fault. Simply the nature of things. The Bulls’ brass could never admit they drafted an orgasmic bench scorer with the 3rd selection and nabbed Hinrich’s starting mate 35 picks later. If Pax and Skiles had simply deemed Duhon and Kirk the team’s starting backcourt with Gordon the explosive bench man and leading scoring, the team would have been steady, contract negotiations with Gordon may have been a breeze, and five years later, had “Little Ben” still ended up on a bus for Motown, the number of Bulls fans, writers, and radio hosts satisfied to see it happen would have been far fewer.
…but then we may have made the playoffs in ’08, and then Derrick Rose would be a Grizzly or a Timberwolf and not a Chicago Bull, and our futures as basketball spectators in Chicago would not be as bright.
For me, that’s the end of it: we rode the Ben Gordon Experience, and it was fun. Being upset that the ride took us in a loop and not to a title would be like complaining that you can’t drive to Florida in a roller coaster. Yes, I prefer a three month road trip to three minutes on Shockwave. But I also prefer three minutes on Shockwave to sitting in traffic.
For five seasons, Ben Gordon made it fun to watch the Bulls. He left his mark. I wish him the best as he moves to Detroit.
Copyright 2009, jm silverstein
Let’s go inside the numbers on Ben Gordon. (all stats compiled by Jack M Silverstein)
BULLS 30+ point games, 2004-05 to 2008-09
Gordon, 48 games
Rose/Duhon/Gooden/Joe Smith, 1 apiece
During Gordon’s five years with the Bulls, he produced 15 of the top 18 individual scoring outputs, along with the top 8. He scored 40+ five times, the only player to do so during that time.
List of 30+ point playoff games, 2004-05 to 2008-09
2009, Game 2 at Boston, BEN GORDON, 42 points
2009, Game 1 at Boston, Derrick Rose, 36 points
2006, Game 1 at Miami, BEN GORDON, 35 points
2009, Game 6 vs. Boston, John Salmons, 35 points
2005, Game 2 vs. Washington, Kirk Hinrich, 34 points
2007, Game 1 vs. Miami, Luol Deng, 33 points (along with the one listed above, this is my other standout Deng memory)
2009, Game 7 at Boston, BEN GORDON, 33 points
2005, Game 1 vs. Washington, BEN GORDON, 30 points
2006, Game 2 at Miami, Andres Nocioni, 30 points
All-Time Bulls highest three point percentage (500 attempts, min.)
Duhon’s winning % as a starter: 57.9% (81-59)
Gordon’s winning % as a starter: 47.9% (58-63)
And, because you deserve it… (as listed above)