Per the Hack-a-Dwight ploy, I asked Mark Jackson a question that I already knew the answer to. Coaches rarely say, “Look, I would have made a different decision had I the opportunity,” after all.
ESS: “Are you happy with the strategy? Would you use it again?”
Mark Jackson: “I’m a flow guy. We put ourselves in position to win the ball game.”
You know, I actually agree with Jackson agreeing with Jackson. While Hack-a-Dwight might not be my strategic or aesthetic preference, I could certainly understand its application. The Warriors played well enough, they were in position to win the game, but the contest swung on a non-planned hack by David Lee. The “hack” strategy is illustrative of a talent chasm between these teams. It is the symptom, and not the disease. This is not profound analysis, but the issue is that GSW lacks awesome players–not that they lack a backup center. So my focus (again) turns to a player who should be awesome.
ESS: (Biedrins) shot two free throws all season. Do you think that he’s avoiding contact on the offensive end?
Mark Jackson: No.
I cite this as another foul-related problem that undid the Dubs. Dwight Howard was free to run roughshod over GSW in part because he never got in foul trouble. Lost in Howard’s free throw record was that he only fouled twice, and consequently played nearly 44 minutes.
The Warriors don’t put much defensive pressure on opposing centers, and this has a lot to do with what became of Andris. Biedrins intentionally avoids getting fouled–and yes, I’m declaring intent, it’s obvious to any sentient observer. This puts the Warriors in a situation where Dwight Howard nearly gets the night off from his mark, and only sits on the bench on his own accord. I will assume that foul-avoidance bothers Mark Jackson and Mike Malone because Dre is only averaging 15 minutes per game this year. Had Biedrins forced Howard into say, one or two more fouls, perhaps this is a different story. Perhaps the Warriors win.
It is true that GSW has a thin front court with Kwame Brown out, but their bigger setback is an All Star talent who can’t play as he pleases. What’s truly remarkable is how efficient Biedrins is despite intentionally avoiding contact. Andris has a 20. 54 PER so far. In the Orlando game, Dre grabbed eight boards until he fouled out after 20 minutes for play. Imagine where the Warriors could be if Biedrins drew fouls and hit FTs at 2008 rates?
ESS: You spoke over the Summer of needing a center badly. Would you say that Dre has played up to expectations so far this year?
Larry Riley: I’ve been very pleased with Andris, because, when we started the season, he was mentally alert. He was back to running the floor and blocking shots, and giving us a good solid effort, and, I think he’ll continue that.
ESS: Andris used to be a 30 minute a game kind of guy. Do you have any thoughts on how he could get back to that level, or if that will happen?
Larry Riley: I certainly hope it does, because he was a high 20s-30s player. And I think right now, I don’t know that since he hasn’t played basketball for well, over a week. I don’t know that he can be in the kind of condition to go 30 minutes. But we would hope that things evolve throughout this year, and then he becomes a guy who can go 30 minutes. That’s our best solution, and there’s no doubt about that. He’s been very alert and I expect him to continue to be alert, and give us a really solid effort as far as I can see.
Dre’s foul-avoidance is an issue that dare not speak its name. I occasionally forget about it as its becoming an accepted reality. After this game, I could not help but revisit the unspoken problem. One center faced his weakness and kept firing free throws, dragging his team to victor. The other center avoided exposure of such a flaw. In 2007-2008, Biedrins posted a better foul shooting mark than Howard. Today, could you even imagine Andris triumping over a “hack-a” ploy? Could you even imagine the Warriors allowing him to be in such a situation?