In the post-game press conference, Keith Smart praised Ekpe Udoh after their 102-89 win over the New Orleans Hornets, saying, “He’s a four-year student … he’s more mature, the kid studies.”
Then Smart told a story. He gave certain players on the Warriors homework before tonight’s game, with a hidden catch. The homework was a set of video clips to study, with instructions at the end to call Smart. He didn’t mention any of the other Warriors who were assigned this project, but Smart smiled when he said the first person to call him back was Udoh.
What was the assigned viewing?
“Clips of their post men. Me and a couple other post men watch clips before every game of the opposing team’s post,” Udoh said. “Surprising when I see ‘call me at this part.'” (Watch Udoh’s reaction when I brought up Professor Smart’s postgame comments in the video below.)
After scoring 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first half, Radmanovic was given Andris Biedrins’ spot to start the second, because as Smart said in a telling quote, “I took Andris out of the lineup so we could get another cushion.” If Udoh keeps studying, rebounding and blocking shots, and maybe takes more than two shots in 20 minutes of action (he made one, finishing with 2 points), perhaps he’ll be the one starting second halves.
Udoh’s built up support from his coach slower than he has from the fans. Besides the wildly over-popular Jeremy Lin, Udoh is the team’s cult star right now. And like cult figures, he’s popular because he’s unique. What else would you call a player on the Warriors who never takes a silly perimeter shot and tonight had as many blocked shots as points for the fourth time this season?
Only a road contest tomorrow night in Salt Lake City lies between the Warriors and the All-Star break, symbolizing the not-really-halfway point of the season. While the clamoring for Udoh to get more minutes is getting louder by the day, Smart seems to be slowly warming up to him (even though Udoh didn’t play at all in the third quarter). In the last three games, Udoh’s averaged 26 mpg in after averaging 11 mpg the previous 15 contests. With Biedrins looking like he’d rather be anywhere but Oakland and Udoh’s rebounding, pick-and-roll defense and shot-blocking gaining attention, those minutes-per-game might be on the rise — as long as he keeps doing his homework.