Janny Hu, Friday, February 22, 2008
As the trade deadline passed Thursday, the biggest news for the Warriors wasn't that Mickael Pietrus was still at practice.
It's that Andris Biedrins was not.
Golden State's top center is out indefinitely after having his appendix removed late Thursday. Biedrins was scheduled for an overnight hospital stay and is expected to be sidelined for at least a week. Suns forward Grant Hill missed 12 days after his Jan. 9 appendectomy.
Coach Don Nelson said Biedrins began feeling sick during Wednesday's win over Boston, but the severity of his illness caught everyone off guard. Biedrins toughed out 21 points and 13 rebounds in one of his best outings of the season before his condition worsened.
"He had such a tremendous, game, you never expected it," Baron Davis said. "But that's the type of guy he is."
Biedrins has been the team's iron man over the past two years, playing in 147 straight regular-season and playoff games. He was the lone Warrior to appear in every game last season, and he and Davis were the only players who hadn't missed a game this season.
His absence strips Golden State of its best player at its thinnest position and will be a huge challenge for the Warriors to overcome. Not only is the 6-foot-11 Latvian averaging a team-high 9.7 rebounds and 10.3 points in 27.5 minutes per game, but Biedrins is the anchor to the Warriors' interior defense and can be counted on for several easy screen-and-roll baskets a night.
Nelson expects Chris Webber and Austin Croshere to see more time at center and added that his younger players - such as Patrick O'Bryant and Brandan Wright - also could see some action, though he didn't exactly sound enthused when asked about potential fill-ins.
"There's the guys over there," Nelson said, surveying the practice court. "You pick out a couple of them that's going to play and give me 10 rebounds a game. I don't know if he's out there."
Webber has started four of his five games at center and is likely to continue the trend as long as Biedrins is out. Webber played a season-high 20 minutes against the Celtics, and though he anticipated having two or three more games to work himself back into NBA shape, he said he would be ready for any increased load.
He also commiserated with his ailing teammate: Webber's own bout with appendicitis cost him the start of training camp during his rookie season in Oakland in 1993.
"I can't describe the pain. It feels like you have to go to the bathroom and you can't. It feels like you have to throw up and you can't. It's just terrible," Webber recalled. "You can't sleep. You sweat. It's bad."
So, too, is the Warriors' once-pristine health landscape. Biedrins' absence marks the first time the Warriors will be missing a key player for an extended period since Stephen Jackson's season-opening seven-game suspension, and Golden State could be down two starters for the immediate future.
Jackson, who sat out against the Celtics with a sprained left ankle, did not practice Thursday and is questionable for tonight's game against Atlanta. Nelson said the forward would be re-evaluated this morning and is considered day-to-day.
That puts the spotlight on Pietrus, who wasn't granted his trade demand before Thursday's noon deadline, but stands to receive big minutes for as long as Jackson is out. Pietrus started in place of Jackson on Wednesday and turned in his best game of the season with 12 points, six rebounds and three steals in 37 minutes.
It was exactly the type of scrappy effort - particularly on the defensive end against Paul Pierce - that the Warriors have expected from their disgruntled player.
"When you know that you're going to play 30 to 40 minutes, the game is so much easier," Pietrus said. "It's kind of a tough situation. I'm trying to figure it out. ... We got (28) games left, and if its 10 minutes, I'll do my best in 10 minutes."
Added Nelson: "He doesn't have any choice. He's playing for a contract and there's 30 teams that are watching him. He needs to play at a high level."
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