No doubt, the Blazers were tired on Wednesday night, their third game in three nights. Gerald Wallace, who took an extremely punishing charge against Marc Gasol the night before in the Grizzlies home win over Memphis, looked exhausted. So did Raymond Felton, whose failure to close out on Curry at one point upset Nate McMillan, and McMillan definitely let him know.
Still, even with the Blazers’ team-wide fatigue effectively rendering this game meaningless in the long term, there were some interesting minute-by-minute decisions by Mark Jackson.
Brandon Rush, who played extremely well, played more minutes than Dorell Wright. Rush was on the court at the end, while Wright watched from the bench.
Jeremy Tyler gave the team 8 productive minutes — at least in terms of offense. 5 points from the center spot is rare this year, and Andris Biedrins again had his usual line: 15 minutes, 0 points, 0 shots, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 3 personal fouls and some ankle tweakage.
After the game Jackson said Biedrins asked to be taken out after taking a tumble, but that he could have gone back in. So don’t be surprised if he’s out until mid-February.
Ekpe Udoh’s plus/minus was the topic of conversation all evening long, and he was very much on the plus side against Portland (+18). Udoh’s line — 4 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks — was hardly impressive for a power forward playing 26 minutes. However, his defense against power forwards is always a strength, and he did a very good job slowing down LaMarcus Aldridge, who spent time at the end of the game at center.
David Lee and Udoh seemed to work together rather well, and Tim Kawakami asked Jackson if there were any plans to start Udoh over Biedrins. Jackson’s response was strikingly pro-Biedrins, even though the Warriors’ starting center has played less than 20 minutes in 8 of his 14 games and has taken 4(!) free throws this season.
As gentle as Jackson was with Biedrins, he seemed more than willing to send a message to Udoh.
Q: Ekpe’s been closing a lot of games basically in the center spot. Is there a chance you’re going to be looking at him starting games at center?
Q: Why not?
Jackson: Because Dre is as good as it gets as a post defender in this league. We have two elite post defenders in Kwame Brown and Andris Biedrins. He sets the tone defensively. He rebounds. He’s an absolute underrated defender. To me he’s having a very good year. He’s not scoring, but he’s having a very good year. And he sets the tond for our defense. Quite honestly, this hasn’t been a great year for Ekpe. So I can’t reward him when he didn’t earn it. He played great tonight and I hope he continues it and puts me in the position to force my hand.
You’ve read the transcript, now watch the video:
Does Jackson expect more from Udoh? Are the Warriors scared to insult Biedrins or open up still-fresh wounds caused by chronically low self confidence? Or does Jackson really believe that Biedrins is having a really good year (in which case he must be playing him so little in order to save him for the playoffs)?
Udoh isn’t a leader on the Warriors, and as a high draft pick that’s what’s expected of him by next season at the very latest. He’s kind of a wallflower on offense with this bunch, but the Warriors still seem to play better when he’s on the floor, which is why I think a lot of people are sizing on his team-leading plus/minus ratio. Even if he hasn’t played as well as Jackson would like, if he’s one of the better players on the roster, shouldn’t he play more?
Video: Udoh’s thoughts on plus/minus: