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"Biedrins rising, and what that means for the Warriors (plus other notes)
By Tim Kawakami
Wednesday, November 15th, 2006 at 6:39 am in Warriors, NBA.
Every week, every game, every quarter last year, I never understood why Andris Biedrins didn’t play more–or play full-time. Never got it.
Well, really, I guess Mike Montgomery didn’t get it. Over two seasons, actually, I kept asking Montgomery why Biedrins–who looked so active, with natural instincts, great hands and defensive gifts–was limited to cameo minutes.
The answer, mainly, was: Montgomery liked Adonal Foyle and Troy Murphy better. Just did. No real in-depth reasoning provided.
Things are a little different now under Don Nelson. A lot different.
*After Biedrins’ 14-point, 12-rebound, five-for-five performance Tuesday night in the Warriors’ victory over Toronto, just another big Biedrins performance this season, it was so easy to see.
In his third NBA season, at 20, Biedrins is the Warriors’ best big man by a ton, might be their second-most essential player behind Baron Davis, and has a chance to be a very good NBA center in the near future.
In other words: As the newly minted starting center, he’s doing almost everything the Warriors desperately needed for the last two seasons, while Montgomery chose to keep Biedrins mainly on the bench.
My goodness, Biedrins is making 80.6% of his FG tries this season! That leads the league, of course. That’s an absurd, crazy number for a starting player.
Biedrins also leads the Warriors in rebounding, blocked shots (by a huge amount), he’s sixth in steals and his four-for-six outing last night got him to 52.9% free-throw shooting.
There was one off-line pass from Mike Dunleavy Tuesday night that would’ve been thwapped out of bounds by any other Warrior. But Biedrins reached way up and over, guided it back towards the rim, then just sort of flipped it off the glass for a big third-quarter basket.
He doesn’t have a jump shot. But does it matter when he can do that?
”We need that from Biedrins all the time,” Nelson said after Biedrins shook off first-half foul trouble to dominate the second half, including hounding Chris Bosh at the rim and flying to the hoop whenever Warrior passers flipped the ball nearby.
”He’s proven that this team is probably less than average without him playing at a high level. We’re starting to count on his rebounds and his great hands and finishing around the basket and doing the dirty work and all of the things that you see. We’re starting to count on that every game now.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, probably many more times: Nelson is an NBA coach’s coach. He didn’t come here thinking much of Biedrins, I can assure you. Hey, Biedrins is still raw. He’s very young. That jump shot… well…
But Nelson has seen what Biedrins can do–guard the rim, play help defense, grab rebounds and finish at the rim. He knows his team almost always plays better when Biedrins is in the game than when he’s not. He knows nobody else on the team does those things (maybe Patrick O’Bryant next season?).
So now Biedrins is a Warrior fixture. Period. None of the: But Troy is so nice! … But Adonal is a world thinker! Biedrins is a better player. Biedrins has to play.
Nelson. That’s all Nelson. It sure wasn’t Montgomery. (OK, to be fair, Biedrins has improved. But he could always rebound, move his feet on defense and catch passes. More than I could say for a few Warrior big men.)
“I think the team’s starting to trust me, giving me the ball more,” Biedrins said after the game. “They’re believing in me. It’s really, truly a good feeling.”
Andris, have you arrived as an NBA big man? ”Yeah, maybe.”
No question, Biedrins will have many tough nights ahead. He almost had one Tuesday when he picked up those three quick fouls exactly when the Warriors couldn’t afford to lose him (with Murphy and Ike Diogu hurt).
But Biedrins’ teammates know what he does for them, and what he’s capable of becoming in a few months or years.
”He’s going to be great,” Davis said. “Love him. Great touch and a great feel for the game. We’re just happy to see his progress. He’s going to be a beast for us.”
More notes and observations from Tuesday’s game… with the big Eric Musselman reunion game coming Thursday vs. Sacramento:
* I think Nelson was kind of sticking it to Musselman, just for fun, pre-game Tuesday by gushing about how great the Kings’ talent is (four All-Stars, Nelson said) and how interested he was in the job last summer.
So if the Warriors beat Musselman, who surely will never be Chris Mullin’s favorite guy? King Nellie, for a night at least.
* Is Dunleavy permanently the Warriors’ sixth man now? Nothing’s ever permanent with Nelson, of course. But he had a chance to put Dunleavy back into the starting line-up Tuesday with Murphy out, but he chose to go small instead.
And Dunleavy came off the bench with a very good performance–22 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists–that had Nelson raving. So count on Dunleavy off the bench for at least a little while and maybe the rest of the season.
”It’s a step back, I know, when I make him my sixth man,” Nelson said. “It’s not a happy thing when you regress a little bit. But it’s what this team needs right now. I don’t know how long it’ll last. But I like him as my sixth man, I really do.”
I asked Dunleavy if he was OK with that.
“I understand it,” Dunleavy said. “Yeah, I like it. It’s just sometimes it’s like when he had me playing point guard. You’ve got to get used to things. It takes a little time.
“I’m cool with anything he wants to do with me. Because I know what he’s doing is going to help our team win. It really does make a lot of sense, being able to play so many positions. Coming off the bench, I can come in for anybody and provide a spark.”
* Just to make sure you know it’s me and not some goof gone super-positive on the Warriors: They still don’t have anybody to guard Bosh, Lamar Odom, Elton Brand, Kevin Garnett and the list goes on. Tuesday they had to zone like mad.
Biedrins can take a shot at some of those guys, but he’s probably too big and rangy now. He should guard centers. He’ll get into foul trouble if he has to guard those power forwards too much.
Even if Murphy and Diogu were healthy, I assure you, they still would’ve had to zone. You can get away with that on some nights, mostly at home, but against a good team with a good big man and good wing players… that’s not going to cut it.
* Two years ago, Mullin looked at his team and flatly said: “We’re OK except at 1 (point guard) and 5 (center). And almost the whole league could say the same thing.”
I critique Mullin a lot, and I sure don’t think he has a playoff team yet, but look at what he’s got, if Davis stays healthy: Davis is playing like one of the top three point guards in the league, especially now that he has Monta Ellis alongside, guarding the tougher points and bringing the ball up for long stretches to ease Davis’ burden.
And the Warriors have Biedrins and possibly O’Bryant at center. That’s nice depth. It’s not championship-level talent, but it’s very, very good. The best they’ve had in a decade or more, at two crucial positions.
* What’s the deal, I asked Nelson: I thought you said you couldln’t and wouldn’t play Baron 40 minutes a game this year?
“I just don’t have a choice,” Nelson said after playing Davis 44 minutes Tuesday, Davis’ fourth 40-minutes-or-more outing this year.
”I don’t really want to play him this many minutes. But to be quite honest with you, it’s probably the only way I can win right now. He’s my most dominant guy.”
Baron, your thoughts? ”If Coach’s going to play me 40 minutes, that means I’ve got to get a lot of rest, take care of my body. And he asks me to play the long minutes, that means I get the next day off from practice.”
I also asked Davis about his new spot in the Warriors’ zone offense. He floats to the middle of the floor, right at the free-throw line, where he can get the entry pass, then either explode to the basket on one dribble, pass it to the wing or reverse dribble and start the offense over again.
He doesn’t have to work it up court. Just get to the spot, let somebody else get the ball to him and he’s instantly in triple-threat position. Where’d that role come from?
”Don Nelson, baby,” Davis said. “I like it. That’s all a part of the offense. Man, it’s open. He knows what he’s doing over there. So we all trust him. We just go out and do what’s necessary.”
OK that was long. But a lot of stuff is happening with the Warriors and I’ve been away from them for a while–plus I’ll be away for another week or so after this."
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I can't wait til #32 sees the words "Great" and "Kawakami" together in the same sentence...
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This might be the dumbest article I have ever read. Montgomery didn't play Biedrins because of (say it with me) foul trouble. Remember?
But the point is biedrins didn't start. IF he was starting and fouling out in fifteen minutes, then it would be acceptable, but that was not the case
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