Andris Biedrins

Questioning Andris Biedrins

Andris Biedrins finally lost the one person still behind him, Keith Smart. Smart, who spent three weeks in Latvia with Biedrins during the off-season and seemed more invested in his success than even the people signing Biedrins’ checks, replaced Biedrins in the starting lineup with Ekpe Udoh on Wednesday night against the Wizards.

Pretty much a no-brainer move, since the Warriors aren’t a .500 team, they’re playing poorly as of late and Biedrins has scored 40 points and attempted 4 free throws (making 0) in his last 13 games. And as Marcus Thompson II reported, Biedrins took the demotion extraordinarily well. Maybe … too well?

BIEDRINS: “I am. I am. I’m trying to find out why (I’m struggling) because physically I’m feeling so great. I don’t have any problems. I’m feeling well physically. But mentally I just can’t get that thing right. So that’s why me and coach talked and we’ll just try to find some other way to get me back on track. If that means coming from the bench, so be it. It’s no problem for me.”

Classy? Sure. What you want to hear from a guy that only two years ago was supposed to be a huge part of the core of the Golden State Warriors, that he’s fine coming off the bench and doesn’t know how to get “back on track”? Not really, unless you can point out a good or great NBA players who doesn’t have a bit of nasty to go with a healthy dose of ego.

However, Biedrins pretty much warned everybody that he was tired of working hard on a basketball court — partly due to the egos of other Warriors — when he was interviewed in Latvia (Biedrins denied anything that could have been offensive from this interview during media day).

I can tell you right now, about our team, most of my teammates are egoists. But what can you do?

Yep, there’s the quote. Interesting, but how about something from that interview that shows Biedrins may be more interested in the finish line than the journey?

If you play 6-8 years, you will have so many injuries, that I guess I won’t be playing a long time.  Something like playing till I’m 30 years old but I won’t aim a lot further than that. I don’t want to damage my health further.  The things I’ve seen in America from players that come to games in their fifteenth career year is not something I want because they look pretty bad.  It’s like Keith Smarth says to us “you start to really feel these injuries when you’re 40 years old or something, all these injuries, that you have gotten, when you were 20-25.” So I would never want to put myself in a position where I have to walk with the aide of a cane when I get older.”

Sounds like something that professional athletes rarely say before they earn their first big payday. Biedrins got his, and while his comments don’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t play through injuries when possible, or that he isn’t “tough,” a word that means different things depending on who’s using it, it doesn’t really show a great love for his craft.

We know the athletes who spend many years playing contact sports risk suffering lifelong ailments as a result. And there’s nothing morally wrong about loving one’s health more than the sport one was born to play based on genetics and circumstances. But Biedrins’ attitude, manifested in the relative docility of his game compared to just two years ago, makes it nearly impossible to believe he’ll ever come out of this supposed funk he’s in, a funk that could be caused by a number of reasons.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss wrote about Biedrins “fading away as a basketball player,” due to his fear of failure at the line.

While many have sympathy for Greg Oden, few feel for the Latvian. To my eyes, the message boards and comment sections have ruled harshly. Much of the antipathy likely stems from how Andris avoids contact these days. Big men are supposed to be tough*, and Golden State’s center swivels from drawing fouls in a manner that’s probably intentional. He’s averaging .6 free throw attempts per game, down from his 08-09 mark of 3.5.

*Emphasis added by me, not Strauss.

This brings us to the two core questions about Biedrins and his slide into Patrick O’Bryant-ville:

1. Does Biedrins’ poor foul shooting come from his fear of missing free throws, leading to fewer chances to hone his skills at the stripe, or is it because he fears contact in all phases of the game because he doesn’t want to “have to walk with the aide of a cane” when he gets older?

2. Is Biedrins’ poor play in general due to a lack of self confidence, or his his lack of self confidence due to the fact that he isn’t a good basketball player anymore?

If you’re Smart, you’ve probably spent entirely too many hours thinking about both of these questions. So many hours that the answer ended up being “Udoh.” Whether it’s free throw shooting difficulties, frustration with life in the NBA, fear of more injuries and/or aftereffects from previous ones, or simply the fact that his hair follicles stopped agreeing with his “gel and spike” program, Biedrins has problems aplenty. Expecting answers may be too much to ask.

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