There was a moment, with roughly 10 minutes left in the third quarter of Warriors-Thunder. After successfully tapping out an offensive rebound, Andris strolled a few paces towards half court. In no rush to get back on offense, he turned, trundled slowly. Literal foot dragging drearily evolved into a perfunctory jog towards the hoop.
Ellis was above the arc to Dre’s right, and Biedrins had position to catch an entry pass. As Monta often does, the impulsive guard jumped as though to shoot, when he was really looking to rifle an assist through a surprised defense.
Andris was not looking at Monta. Never saw him. Perhaps realizing this at the last moment, Ellis double-clutched the pass, flipped a feeble wobbler that David Lee somehow snagged from a fray. The result was a frenzied brick. Below, you can blurrily make out Biedrins, watching the rim as the ball flies behind Dre’s back.
Shortly thereafter, Andris Biedrins was banished to the bench, never to return. And who knows if he’ll ever return in the broader sense? Tonight, he played nine minutes, contributing no shots and only one board. The playing time taken from Andris went to a rookie who played in Japan’s B League last year. If this was not the worst game of Andris’s career, then what was? If this did not signify the end, then what would?
Tonight, there was no wacky Nellie ball whim to blame for the benching, no foul trouble at all. He just…wasn’t there, existing only to camouflage himself amid the other flailing limbs and jersey colors.
When I asked Mark Jackson about what factors were contributing to the minutes drop, the coach was direct:
“I’m glad you saw the minutes. Read the entire stat sheet, along the line, and it’ll tell you what factored into it. I need my big guys to play.”
A rebound here or there, but Biedrins has ceased to play. He is blessed with enough physical talent to still board above average, but his facility in this facet has morphed into a shield. His rebounding masks an unwillingness to engage otherwise.
At the beginning of the season, some of you questioned why I picked on Biedrins. His PER was decent, he was “active” around the rim, the team was ambling along. Why? It’s simply because, despite all that activity, he was still avoiding the line. I’ll believe the new Andris when I see someone who confidently draws a foul, and not a moment sooner.
Right now, Andris is averaging 62 minutes per free throw shot, and he’s been to the line only twice in 15 games. I’ve harped on the issue long enough, and frankly, so much so that it’s high time to address the symptom and not the disease. The need for spotlighting his all-consuming free throw fear is lessening. If this flaw is immutable, then what is the point of pointing it out, again and again?
Or rather, it’s time to focus on how the “symptom” of Dre’s worsening production has become a disease for GSW. They now have a non participant on offense, one who isn’t exactly a force on defense. He commands a hefty contract that goes until 2014, and the amnesty provision has already been used on Charlie Bell. They are thin enough up front to bemoan Kwame Brown’s injury. Of all Warriors problems, this one is biggest.
I don’t beat this dead horse out of hatred of Biedrins, or belief that “he sucks” as many fans now tell me. I do it because he was an All Star talent who now physically comports himself as a man who’d rather be forgotten. And I can’t stop noticing his disintegration because the once-engaged center is unforgettable to me. He was a seven-footer with a 35 inch vertical and touch around the rim. He threw one-handed fastbreak dunks with demonstrable joy. He’s truly the last We Believe link, because Ellis had a background role in those playoffs. The amnesty provision is gone and so is Andris Biedrins.