Andris Biedrins had potential.
At age 25, the Latvian looks more imposing than ever. His once craggy shoulders now bulge with muscle. He used to be so pale and gawky. The new Andris has a tan, slightly-ruddy complexion. He’s the picture of seven-foot health, not some hind-legged fawn who lives life on the brink of perpetual teetering. In 2008, I might have spied 2012 Biedrins in a crystal ball and praised the Warriors for finally retaining an All Star. All that Andris lacked is what he now has: The spindly center grew strong, strong enough to be a force in this league.
He’s slowing slipping out of this league.
In the last game against Phoenix, Biedrins finally shot his first free throws of the season (clank….clank). That he shot them at all is an improvement over the status quo. That he played a meager 12 minutes is an improvement over the previous game’s nine minute stint. He used to play 30 minutes a night.
The man can’t get fouled, because it seems he does not want to. When I write “seems,” I do it to “seem” fair. But it is my utmost belief that Biedrins avoids drawing fouls, with intent. I’ve seen him catch countless defenders up in the air, only to release them back into the wild. As the confused defender falls back to earth, Biedrins fades his way from layup to a difficult, off-balance hook. It’s worth it to avoid a trip to the line, an area where so many other players strive to live.
In 08’-09’ Andris averaged 3.5 free throws a game per 30 minutes of action while shooting a .551 FT percentage. In 10’-11’, Andris averaged .5 free throws per game, while shooting a .323 FT%. The 09’-10’ season was his ferry to free throw hell. Biedrins shot .160 FT% over 33 games, in a chaotic year where Don Nelson did everything but laugh maniacally while waving a stetson and riding an A-bomb.
So here we are. A healthy seven-footer can’t fulfill his promise because of…what, a free throw? I’m not even sure why the free throw exists. The game grinds to a halt so that a player can earn an opposing player’s punishment. Why does it have to be “earned”? Does a judge ever declare, “The lawsuit money is yours…if you can balance the check on your nose!”?
Andris Biedrins is losing his career on account of an inability to master something so divorced from the world of set-plays, pick-and-rolls, blocks, steals, and the concept of team. Bad free throw shooting should be a blemish, not a cancer. It should be a quirk, not a career-ender. But a flaw in basketball’s stagnant phase blocks Andris from a game defined by motion. It just sucks and I hope he can move past it.