I’ll be heading out the door shortly to attend my first Warriors game of the year, and while much of the focus will be on the Warriors’ fantasy of acquiring Dwight Howard, the reality is that Howard is still in Orlando and he’ll face a Warriors team without Kwame Brown.
Brown will undergo surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle that will keep him out for an estimated three months. Since today’s Jan. 12, a return in exactly three months would put him back in action for the season’s last nine games.
Brutal injury, huh? Brown isn’t the best example of a No. 1 overall pick by any means, but he’s a valuable piece in a league bereft of guys over 6’9″ who carry enough weight to withstand the power of Howard’s well-shouldered physique.
As Brown heads to Rehabville (where he hopefully won’t gain a significant amount of extra weight), Andris Biedrins returns from his
mini-vacation ankle injury. Since Biedrins is the only true center Mark Jackson has, and Biedrins has also been known to pout a bit when things aren’t going well (so pretty much 24/7 since 2007), Jackson won’t demote him without Brown there to replace him.
Jackson probably should at least consider it, though.
At this point, Biedrins provides an extremely flawed package. So does Ekpe Udoh — who I think should start at center for the foreseeable future — but at least Udoh’s flaws are masked by hustle, tough defense and determination. Biedrins is better at collecting rebounds even though Udoh’s improved in that area so far this season, but Biedrins is nowhere near the defensive presence Udoh is. If the Warriors are serious about remaking themselves as a scrappy, defensive club, Udoh should be rewarded for his contributions in that area.
There are a couple other reasons why Jackson should start Udoh.
First, the Warriors’ bench isn’t incredibly deep offensively, even with the addition of Nate Robinson. Udoh fits in better with the starting lineup, which doesn’t need the scoring boost — especially when Stephen Curry plays. Biedrins isn’t exactly taking it to the hole these days due to his free throw phobia, but he also shrinks when he doesn’t get enough touches early. In the second unit he’d be asked to handle more offensive responsibilities, which could* lead to a more engaged center.
*Pretty sad how much we have to constantly fret about Biedrins’ mental state since he’s making $9 million per season, but that’s where we are.
Second, Biedrins wasn’t exactly impressing Jackson that much anyway. He was the incumbent starter before getting hurt, but he was only playing about 14 minutes per game. Udoh’s only playing about two and a half minutes more per game than Biedrins, but his minutes should rise without Brown around to pick up rebounds and fouls.
I fully expect to see Biedrins in the starting lineup this evening, and I’m not sure that would’ve been the case if Brown stayed healthy (even though Brown, shockingly, hasn’t blocked a single shot this season in 187 minutes). But if Biedrins plays the way he has since Mickael Pietrus was a Warrior with upside, Jackson should play Udoh at center. With longer arms and a bigger heart than Biedrins, Udoh won’t seem as undersized at the position as Jackson might have assumed when he agreed to coach the team.