Udoh in, Andris out. And the feeling is something between “Yes!” and “Finally!” Andris did not play due to “flu-like symptoms,” so his spot was taken by a younger, hungrier character. Mark Jackson has not confirmed the change, but he also won’t deny it. This is notable because Jackson often vociferously defends his starters, publicly making them sound like tenured professors at Ball So Often University.
We Believe is still slowly eroding, though the Warriors insist on clinging to the sloughed off snake skin. Biedrins and Ellis are the last ones standing, and perhaps this signalled the end for Andris. It has been a grim, long goodbye for the Latvian.
The way Oracle cheered Ekpe Udoh bordered on mass catharsis. Ekpe got wild applause merely for subbing back into the game in the second quarter, a reaction that’s usually reserved for players returning from a catastrophic injury. Why such a big fuss?
It was not that Udoh played so well, though he did. It was that Udoh’s splendid play meant the Warriors could finally end the Biedrins charade. Or rather, the fans knew GSW was forced to do so.
It is exhausting to witness a player so depressed and shrunken. Worse for him, but certainly unpleasant for those who emotionally invest night after night. Not only was Biedrins terrible, he was terrible in an unseemly way. He wanted no part of contact, no aspect of offense, nothing that could conceivably lead to a free throw. There is something fundamentally anti-basketball about a player whose main focus is not getting fouled. Had Andris admitted this, had the Warriors admitted this, then perhaps the situation could have been bearable. But to live the lie of Biedrins as healthy, active, problem-free starter? To pretend this was the same guy whom fans loved in 2008? Exhausting.
On to Udoh, who played the best game of his career. He was magnificent, finally displaying practice hewn talent in an arena setting. Most impressive, as always, was his defense. The refs called two fouls on Ekpe for stuffing Blake Griffin near the rim, but those blocks were clean and squeaky. Udoh found the best strategy for avoiding a Mozgov: Block Blake before he even gets off the ground.
Ekpe: “You gotta get right after it. Once he gets airborne, it could get ugly.”
Udoh. McGuire. Rush. There is a cabal within the Warriors, a group of defensive specialists. These Young Turks are gaining power as the season moves along. Rush played decently, Dominic had the most impressive finish among the defensive Dubstitutes. He simply shut down Chris Paul on the final few possessions, crushing the point guard like a paper cup. Dominic is one of the most offensively inept players in the league, but the man can guard positions 1-through-5. This is a rare skillset.
I believe it’s a skillset, anyway. Dom would differ. He pounds his chest in the locker room, claims defense to be “all heart.” McGuire even sees lack of defense as a path to self emasculation: “I feel like less of a man if somebody scores on me. That’s just the way I feel.”