Drew Gooden: From 10-Day Contract to Constructive Device in the Wizards' Playoff Run

Veteran Drew Gooden went from a 10-day contract to helping keep the Wizards alive against the Pacers.

Entering March, with the Wizards in the midst of a late-season playoff push, Nene went down with a harsh knee injury, leaving the Wizards without their key big man for the next 4-6 weeks.

In an effort to help soften the blow, Washington signed veteran Drew Gooden to a 10-day contract. And as general manager Ernie Grunfeld mentioned Gooden's experience, shooting ability and veteran presence, most all of us reminisced about that well-groomed and extremely awkward patch of hair Gooden used to sport as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But three games into his late-budding Wizards career, and at the ripe age of 32, Gooden made us forget about that dismal duck tail and proved to be a useful cog in Washington's push. He finished the regular season having played in 22 games, posting double-digit scoring totals in 10 of them, and pulling in five or more rebounds in 12.

Come playoff time, Gooden has been even more instrumental. Although he played limited minutes in the first-round series against Chicago, the Wizards blew the doors off the Bulls with a 4-1 series victory, none of which required Gooden's inside grit.

However, during the current conference semifinals series, the Wizards have found themselves in quite the dog fight through five games - with Game 6 on tap for tonight - and Gooden has made good use of his nearly 19 minutes per game.

In five games, Gooden hasn't been a surprise scoring threat for a Wizards team that doesn't necessarily need it, but his presence in the paint, his rebounding talent, ability to run the floor and artistry at being a thorn in the opposition's side has gone a long way for Washington.

While Gooden has posted positive +/- numbers through each game against Indiana, he's been especially pertinent on the glass in each of the Wizards' two wins, pulling in 13 boards in Game 1 (seven of which were offensive) and nine in Game 5. For the series, Gooden is third on the team behind only Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza (both key starters logging more than 34 minutes per game a piece) with 18 offensive rebounds.

In a back and forth series consisting of two teams in desperate search of consistency, the Wizards have found their only success when dominating the fight on the glass. In their two wins so far, Washington has out-rebounded Indiana by an insane +56 margin. In their three losses, just +4.

Gooden was initially signed to that 10-day contract (and then another and another and another) for not only filling in for lost parts, but more importantly to crash the boards and hopefully provide the offense with second chances. And in a series where that very same process remains the recipe for success, Drew Gooden is a critical piece for the Wizards tonight and in a potential Game 7.