Josh Luckenbaugh

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Drew Gooden describes playing with LeBron James: It was 'like a traveling rock band'

Drew Gooden describes playing with LeBron James: It was 'like a traveling rock band'

LeBron James and the media circus that comes along with him is coming to Washington, D.C., as the Lakers will face off with the Wizards at Capital One Arena.

Drew Gooden played with James for the better part of four seasons in Cleveland from 2004-08, and so he knows exactly what it's like when one of the NBA's greatest players comes to town. 

"It's only real until you actually see it," Gooden said during Thursday's edition of the Wizards Talk podcast. "We used to joke and call ourselves not the Beatles, but the 'Cleatles,' because it was almost like a traveling rock band. And everybody played their part."

Gooden recounted one particular incident during a day off in Detroit in 2006, when he, James and a couple of their teammates went to a shopping mall to buy some watches.

"When we walked into the shopping mall in Detroit, it was like Michael Jackson had entered the shopping mall," Gooden explained. "Kids were running up, grownups were running up, everybody ran into the store we were in. They had to shut it down with mall security, and wouldn't let anybody in."

"The only thing I was thinking of is like, 'How are we gonna get out of here?' Because we came on our own with no security, so we were just thinking of how we were gonna get out of the mall now. And when I saw that star power of LeBron James back in 2006, this was before he won a championship, I couldn't imagine how it is now, and what he's become in today's game."

James' star power has only grown since then, and many have already declared him the greatest basketball player of all-time.

This label in reference to James is nothing new to Drew Gooden: he heard it when they were both teenagers playing AAU baskeball. 

"Calvin Andrews, who was a sports agent of Carmelo Anthony, Calvin Andrews told me when LeBron was 15 years of age, he said, 'You see that guy right there?'" Gooden recalled. "I said, 'Yeah, what about him?'"

"'He's gonna be the best basketball player ever.'"

"So it's no surprise to me, and this is not new to me, it's just I'm more amazed that it actually happened," Gooden concluded. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, he's gonna be the best ever or he has an opportunity of being the best ever.' But I literally heard a man tell me that in Calvin Andrews, and that guy actually becoming one of the best ever, or the best ever." 

For more on LeBron James and the Lakers' upcoming visit to D.C. to take on the Wizards, listen to the full Wizards Talk podcast below.

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Patrick Corbin's contract is insanely backloaded, but that's S.O.P. for the Nationals

Patrick Corbin's contract is insanely backloaded, but that's S.O.P. for the Nationals

The specifics of the six-year, $140 million deal Patrick Corbin signed with the Nationals have come out, and unsurprisingly, much of the money is backloaded. 

Here are the details, courtesy of Jon Heyman:

As you'll notice, the Nats will be paying Corbin $35 million in 2024, his age-35 season. That's an $11 million jump from the previous year, and $22.5 million more than he'll be making in the 2019 season. 

That may sound like a lot of money to be paying an aging pitcher in the final year of his deal. But with the Nats, that's standard operating procedure.

To demonstrate, let's take a look at the contracts of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, Washington's other two marquee starters (contract details found on spotrac.com)

Scherzer signed a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Nats before the 2015 season, the average annual salary sitting at $30 million. However, he's only been receiving a base salary of $15 million a year -- plus signing bonus money and incentives -- through his first four years in D.C.

Why? His contract is very backloaded: starting in 2019 until his contract expires in 2021, he'll start earning a base salary close to or more than $30 million. In addition, much of his money is deferred: from 2022-28, Washington will be paying Scherzer $105 million, good for $15 million each year. 

As for Strasburg, his contract includes an even more dramatic salary jump than Corbin's or Scherzer's. Since he signed his seven-year $175 million deal, he's earned base annual salaries of $10.4 million, $15 million and $15 million from 2016-18. 

In 2019, that number balloons to $35 million, then down to $25 million in 2020 and back to $15 million in 2021 and 2022, before rising once again to the tune of a whopping $45 million in 2023!

In conclusion, the Nats will be paying their top three pitchers a ton of money, but Washington has decided to delay cutting those checks to give themselves more financial flexibility in the present. 

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5 things to know about new Wizards forward Sam Dekker

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5 things to know about new Wizards forward Sam Dekker

Sam Dekker joined Washington as part of a three-team trade with the Bucks and Cavaliers Friday night. Here's what you need to know about the newest Wizard.

He played for a NCAA title with Wisconsin

Dekker was one of the Badgers' star players as a junior in 2014-15, and helped lead Wisconsin all the way to the national title game against Duke.

It would have been the Badgers' first NCAA title in 74 years, but it was not to be, the Blue Devils winning 68-63. 

He was drafted just three spots after Kelly Oubre Jr.

Dekker and Oubre were part of the same draft class in 2015 in a draft full of wing players. But while the Wizards took the Kansas product Oubre with the 15th overall pick, Dekker headed to Houston to join the Rockets after he was taken at no. 18. 

He's married to Kevin Harlan's daughter

Dekker married Olivia Harlan, the daughter of legendary NBA announcer Kevin, in July of this year. Olivia actually went into the family trade of broadcasting, and currently works as a sideline reporter for ESPN.

In fact, her grandfather is Bob Harlan, the Chairman Emeritus of the Green Bay Packers.

He loves his hometown of Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Two years ago, Dekker wrote a Players' Tribune piece called "Summer in Sheboygan," explaining why the Midwest town will "always be" home for him. 

"During winter months, you’re shoveling driveways and staying inside to watch sports. But from May to October, I can’t think of a more idyllic place than my hometown," he wrote.

Dekker's certainly put his money where his mouth is: he reportedly bought a 1,568-square-foot condo on the Sheboygan River last year. It set him back $289,000, per MySheboygan.com

He's been banged up this season, but should be ready to go immediately for the Wizards

Dekker's played in just nine games this year, and hasn't seen the court since suffering an ankle injury Nov. 5.

However, he was expected to play Saturday for Cleveland against the Wizards, and now could be available to play for Washington right away.

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