Friday, August 1st, 2008 at 12:01 am  |  27 responses

Interview: Ben Gordon

On hula hoops of fire, Batman and saying no to Europe.

by Ben Collins

Ben Gordon feels trapped.

He won’t say this outright. He’s been in relationships before, presumably. He knows that this kind of talk would just exacerbate his already wretched tango with restricted free agency and, to a lesser extent, the Chicago Bulls.

But, fact is, Ben Gordon is trapped. A day after re-upping Luol Deng, the Bulls are in no rush to open their pocketbook and start courting another guard. No other team can offer above the mid-level exception. And he talks about sign-and-trades with other teams with the tempestuous allure of an affair, equal parts temerity and confidence, always serious but never really serious.

This is the point in the relationship where Ben would say this: Start taking me seriously or I will commit the ultimate basketball infidelity.

He has grabbed his proverbial keys, he has left his proverbial house in Chicago in a proverbial minor huff, he has creaked his proverbial side door half-open in hopes of swift return, and he is forwarding all of those very real sign & trade offers from his agent to his very real voicemail and sending all of those very real European offers to the back of his very real mind. For this weekend, at least.

And this is the point in the relationship where Ben would say this: This weekend is a me weekend.

So he has decided to bowl.

The Ben Gordon New Life Foundation, his upstart charity put together with his Mom, is putting on the Ben Gordon Weekend in Mount Vernon, NY for the fourth year in a row. There will be bowling, a talent show, a comedy show. They’re even going to — you’re not going to believe this — play some basketball. And, by the end of it, they’re going to raise enough money to make sure his high school alma mater’s teams, the Mount Vernon Knights, can all play despite budget cuts that weeded out athletics.

Then it will be the point in the relationship where Ben will say this: OK, Bulls, I’ve gone bowling. I’ve saved a school. I’ve seen Batman twice. Now, we need to talk…


SLAM: So tell me a little bit about this weekend.

Ben Gordon: Basically it’s an event to bring the community together. It’s all about the kids. There’s gonna be a basketball clinic, a charity basketball game, talent show. There’s gonna be bowling, too.

SLAM: You doing anything for the talent show?

BG: Naah.

SLAM: I think you should do something really dangerous — something that would really help out with your contract negotiations. Juggle something sharp. You should try out a motorcycle.

BG: Maybe go through a hula hoop of fire.

SLAM: That would work. So what is all of this benefitting?

BG: It’s an S.O.S. of the school board at Mount Vernon. With the budget situation, the school is eliminating sports because they can’t afford it and I didn’t think that was right. So I’m trying to do whatever I can to raise some money for them.

SLAM: That’s cool. Do you ever think of what it would be like if you had to go through that when you were coming up?

BG: When I was coming up, actually, it was the same thing. In ninth grade. I was looking at going to other schools in (New York City). I’m hoping right now, definitely, where we’re raising money that we can get it done. If you look at the problem facing the situation, with a lot of the kids, I don’t want them going to the streets. Not having an outlet like sports — it’s so big in your growth — they’d just spend that time on the streets. It would be a tragedy.

SLAM: What got you started in the charity business?

BG: As soon as I got into the League I was involved in the Boys & Girls Club. I’ve always been open to that. I always like to try and do some kind of good. It started up as small stuff and now it’s starting to evolve. My Mom kinda got me started with my own charity (The Ben Gordon New Life Foundation). I just want to continue as a basketball player and as a business man.

SLAM: As of today, this second, where do you see yourself playing in three months?

BG: Honestly, I can’t even say where. As long as I’m doing what I love and I’m making the kind of money that I’m looking to make, I’ll be happy.

SLAM: With your status as a restricted free agent, do you feel kind of stuck?

BG: It’s frustrating, but it’s part of the business. I’m trying to weigh all of my options and see which one works out the best. I’m being patient and optimistic.

SLAM: Do you have any offers from Europe?

BG: There’s been a few. Josh Childress and the deal he got kind of made those teams reach out more. But my dream has always been to play in the NBA and this is where I want to play. That’s something that I want to be, an NBA basketball player. But I’d go (to Europe) if I had no choice.

SLAM: You were born in London, right?

BG: Yeah. I have dual-citizenship there.

SLAM: Are you going to play on their National Team (in 2012)?

BG: I’m considering it. It’s not definitive, yet. It really depends on my contract situation and how that turns out. The way it works, I can get on the team in time for qualifying in the next summer.

SLAM: But Luol Deng is definitely in, right?

BG: Yeah, he’s definitely doing it.

SLAM: Have you been back to the UK recently?

BG: The last time I went I was probably a young teenager. Once I started playing ball really competitively — the way it goes, you’re playing ball even in the summer — so I never really had time. But when I went I loved it. It’s one of the greatest cities in the world. It’s always a great experience when I go. I still have plenty of family there.

SLAM: So what do you think about this Derrick Rose kid?

BG: I think he’s really good. With his athletic ability, he has great upside. But I haven’t seen him play at all, really. I’ve seen some of his Summer League games and I know he’s doing stuff for the Team USA circuit. So I’m anxious to see him play, just from watching him on TV.

SLAM: If you do end up back with the Bulls, are you comfortable playing a lot more 2 this year?

BG: I’m comfortable at either slot. At the 1, it’s easier when you have other guys around you who can score. With this team, it’s more interchangeable. I mean — depending on how our roster shakes out and if I’m still with them.

SLAM: So is your top choice to end up back in Chicago?

BG: Yeah. I mean, no other teams are under the cap, so I’d have to work out a sign-and-trade. And, with a sign-and-trade, both sides have to agree to it. So I’m still keeping everything open.

SLAM: Anything in your game that you’re working on specifically this summer?

BG: I’m working on a lot of ballhandling. It doesn’t really change from summer to summer. At this point, you pretty much are who you are as a basketball, you just get better at your weaknesses. The major difference would be, as you get older, you try to retain situations. I’m trying to watch more film to become a smarter player.

SLAM: What was the last movie you saw? I guess I should just ask how many times you’ve seen Batman.

BG: I’ve seen Batman twice, man! It’s awesome. I’m not really into superhero stuff, but it blew me away. Heath Ledger deserves an Oscar!

If you’re interested in attending one of Ben’s clinics, watching him jump through his hula hoop of fire, or attending any of the activities this weekend in Mount Vernon, check out www.bengordonnewlife.org for more information.

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  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com DP

    I want this guy with the Lakers. Mitch, do your magic. If we can’t have J.R., we damn for sure will have some 2 guard that doesn’t think at all. I mean when it comes to taking shots. Ben is like a hot pocket. Very small, but filled with hot, firey goodness. whatever. first. play wit it.

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  • whooo!

    you shoulda asked ben what he’s been smoking this summer, in light of his $70 million dollar contract demand.

  • tealish

    Yeah, come on SLAM, I thought for sure you’d ask something like, “Where do you get off turning down $50M over 5?”, or “who do you think you are?”
    Something along those lines would’ve been great!

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Ben is a great scorer…put him on a team that consistently wants to get over 100 ppg and you’ve got a great mix here… It’s a shame the Bulls dont want to pay him – he’s not that much behind Luol as far as a skill set goes anyway…his biggest problem was when they drafted Rose.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Phoenix or Golden State. Preferably Golden State since they have Monta and they play with no real point in Diddy’s absence and the suns have Raja Bell who can stroke a 3 and play good defense, which helps the suns more than Gordon does.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/betcats BETCATS

    i remember when the bulls were favored to win ECF and Ben was the one to carry them their….but they ended up with the number 1 pick instead. Oh well for that, but Ben can still ball and the bulls should still pay him because they can not afford to lose such a valubale asset even though they have 1000000000000000 guards. But i think he will have to be sixth man agian, because Larry Hughes is still better.

  • http://www.mybleedingfingertips.blogspot.com/ Myles Brown

    High five!

  • http://slamonline.com Holly MacKenzie

    Good stuff, BenCollinsMavs. I like the “So what do you think about this Derrick Rose kid”.

  • http://slamonline.com Matt Caputo

    Ben Collins is the man. Good talk here for sure. I owe you one collins

  • slamfan4life

    As a Bulls fan i really wan’t to see BG back, but i dont think that will happen unless some trades go down first

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    He sounds really enthused about being a Bull.

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    I’m wondering when Ben Osborne is going to plan a charity weekend for Mt. Vernon athletics?

  • ciolkstar

    in Gstate Gordon would be even more redundant than he is in Chi Town…

  • adl

    u sir (betcats) are an idiot……thinking hughes is better…i cant believe im even commenting on this…sounds like some of you dont really know much… do some research before you start voicing your opinions….

  • http://www.freewebs.com/betcats BETCATS

    adl are you smart?

  • jiro

    ben gordon only wants to be back in chicago because they can offer the most money…it has nothing to do with liking the city/team. he thinks as the leading scorer he should be the highest paid-which makes sense thinking back to all the BAD shots he took this past year. we already overpaid luol deng (he’s solid, but i wouldn’t give him superstar loot) and ben gordon is worth less that deng.

    and hughes is a way better defender. bg is like bill murray in space jam.

  • quickAnswer

    I believe it’s Tyrus Thomas’s fault BG believe he desires so much money. No one on the Bulls can scorer other than a healthy Deng, sometimes. The expectations of Tyrus have been so high (a converted badly 2nd pick in draft) and he hasn’t yet averaged 10ppg

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  • Hank

    If you live in the Metro New York area, come on out to Ben’s Bowling Bash & Celebrity Fundraiser on August 15th in Yonkers.

    Ben is raising money for his foundation and, more importantly, to save the Mount Vernon High School sports programs from being cut. 86 of the 91 student athletes who graduated from MVHS this June will be attending college, which is a far greater ratio than that of non-athletes who graduated.

    Already confirmed are Emeka Okafor and Charlie Villanueva as well as actor Jamie Hector who played Marlo Stanfield on HBO’s The Wire. Performing live will be WNBA pioneer turned jazz singer Kym Hampton. More celebrity confirmations well be released next Monday. Visit http://www.bengordonnewlife.org for more information or to make reservations online.

  • http://joel.ongutoronto.ca Joel O’s

    Hughes vs BG? Larry Hughes is a much, much better defender than Gordon. He had a 23, 6 and 5 season before getting traded to the Lebrons where his game has languished for a few years. He can also create his own (admittedly streaky) shot, and is a much better slasher. More importantly, I believe he fits better than BG with Rose at the helm. With a guy like Rose, having the slasher Hughes with his defense and size at the 2 makes much more sense than the undersized BG.

  • http://joel.ongutoronto.ca Joel O’s

    That said, I hope BG gets in a situation where he can thrive. He’s so much better as a super-sub than as a starter, so if they keep him and he fits in their plans like that it’d be all right. I think BG’d be great on the Hawks too – they’re a wing player short now, and have needed a straight up dependable shooter for a while now. A big question mark, however, is how Del Negro – if he can coach – is gonna work this mess out.

  • info

    I think the Bulls have to resign Ben Gordon if they want to be competitive in the east this year. The only reliable scorer in the backcourt is BG. Rose was not a real scorer in college and had a mediocre summer …which is expected for a rookie. I think Rose will eventually pan out, but the Bulls can’t wait three years. If the Bulls don’t sign Gordon, then they put an unreasonable amount of pressure on a front court that has not become consistent yet. Defenders will not have to play honest and will able to double down more. Hughes is larger and can defend larger two guards, but Ben if given the minutes could probably average 25 points a game and already is the leading scorer. BG has also won everywhere he has played and has a winner’s mentality. I anyone has played or coached, you know you can’t teach that. In addition, the main thing is he scores in the fourth quarter in bunches and most of the players in the league cannot do that. Everyone scores in the first three quarters, but when the lights shine the brightest and the pressure is on, who do you want to take the last shot in Chicago…Ben Gordon. Anyone who says otherwise is just not being honest. Ben is probably one of the top ten fourth quarter’s players in the league.
    He also is model citizen according to the Slam Magazine article. He has a fundraiser that he is doing on August 15 at The Homefield Bowling Lanes, 938 Saw Mill River Road, Yonkers, NY. You can go to http://www.bengordonnewlife.org for additional information. You can also call 914-664-3000 for more information. The papers in New York say Elton Brand will be attend and there are more confirmations to come.

  • tinchek

    i don’t understand why the bulls are even thinking about giving up ben gordon.i don’t get it. derrick rose and ben gordon sure can play together. hinrich is somewhat a liability. no progress from 2006. can someone explain what bulls are trying to pull? ben must be on the bulls!#7

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com DP aka D.Polo

    am I on?

  • David

    I think Gordon would fit in really well with the Mavs. Or the Spurs.

  • michael

    ben take the 59mil and move on with your career with the bulls