Though it’s not a date anyone remembers, February 6, 2009 is one of the saddest days in the recent history of the Golden State Warriors. That day, in a game the Warriors lost to the Phoenix Suns 105-115, Andris Biedrins‘ career started a nosedive that lasted for three full seasons before hitting rock-bottom in 2011-2012.
With 6:23 remaining in the third quarter, Biedrins left the game after spraining his right ankle. He had 11 points and 11 rebounds when he left, which was par for the course in a season that saw Biedrins actually improve on his breakout 2007-2008 campaign. He averaged a double-double in each of the season’s first four months.
Biedrins was never the same after the injury. He played in just 20 more games, and never averaged a double-double in any month. Not knowing at the time that Biedrins’ best days were already behind him, the Warriors’ offered Biedrins a six-year, $54 million contract in July.
The following season, the newly wealthy Biedrins suffered groin and back injuries which derailed any hope he might have had of rediscovering the form he showed in the first half of the prior season.
To make matters worse, then-head coach Don Nelson took to browbeating and humiliating Biedrins (a habit Nelson repeated in nearly every stop of his nomadic career) by questioning everything from Biedrins’ skill to his passion for basketball. In a post-practice interview, Nelson said,
He doesn’t really have an inside game that you could go to. When I’ve tried to go to it to get his confidence up, he hasn’t delivered. His shot’s not there. There’s a way to be involved in a screen and roll, and there’s a way to hide and not be involved. I think he chooses to hide at this point.
Whether Nelson created Biedrins’ confidence void or merely contributed to it, the Warriors’ center certainly played as if he were afraid.
His free-throw shooting became an exercise in futility, with fans often ironically cheering his rare makes. As Nelson said, Biedrins chose to hide, hoping to avoid contact and fouls on both ends of the floor. Biedrins was completely ineffective in 33 games that year.
The story was the same in 2010-2011. Biedrins played timidly, avoided contact and averaged just five points per game. He had become a completely ineffective player. Fans felt sorry for him. And while he may not have shown it, he probably felt sorry for himself.
Last year, Biedrins bottomed out, averaging career lows in every meaningful statistic. He played in 47 games and shot just nine free throws. He made one.
So now, the Warriors are left with a player who hasn’t stayed physically healthy for three years, and may be mentally broken forever. Oh, and he’ll be around for a while, too, since the Warriors indefensibly chose to use their amnesty provision on Charlie Bell instead of Biedrins before last season.
Maybe the addition of Andrew Bogut will help alleviate pressure from Biedrins. Although, how much pressure can there be when nobody expects anything from you?
Maybe he’ll fix his foul shooting and that’ll trigger a resurgence in his confidence and a return to form.
Or maybe he’ll never be the player he was before February 6, 2009.
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