Posted Dec 12 2011 5:26PM - Updated Dec 12 2011 8:16PM
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Andris Biedrins fully understands why the Golden State Warriors went searching for his replacement.
He might have done the same thing considering his drastic fall off the past two years. The 7-foot Latvian center lost his edge, and his confidence right along with it. He also lost nearly a full NBA season's worth of games to injury - 72 in all.
When he was on the court, Biedrins often looked a step behind as he desperately tried to rediscover his timing.
"Obviously I didn't play my game the last two seasons. I don't blame them if they started looking for another guy because I was not really great the last two seasons," Biedrins said. "That's the way the business is. There's nothing you can do about it but come back and play strong and prove to them again that you're worth being where you are right now. ...
"It makes you a little bit stronger, too, that they've started looking for somebody else. You say, `No way, I can prove to them I'm better than those guys they're looking for."'
Biedrins sure looks the part of a determined veteran these days. He arrived for the opening day of training camp Friday showing off his visibly bigger upper body, the result of a rigorous training regimen, first in his home country over the summer, and then in Santa Barbara for the past two months. He gained 15 pounds of muscle and now weighs 256 pounds.
"I still didn't lose any of my quickness, so that's good," Biedrins said.
With Biedrins posing in his white No. 15 jersey for Monday's media day photo shoot, teammate David Lee had a little fun.
"This doesn't mess with his modeling contracts does it?" Lee quipped.
Biedrins received a specific assignment from his new coach last week: rebound every ball possible and block shots.
Sounds simple enough, though Biedrins struggled to handle even his fundamental tasks the past two seasons.
Coach Mark Jackson isn't worried about getting much more than that from Biedrins, who "can be an anchor for our defense." The Warriors have plenty of other go-to guys who can take care of the scoring load.
They had hoped to finally find a player to take some pressure off Biedrins, signing Clippers center DeAndre Jordan to a four-year offer sheet Sunday worth approximately $42.7 million. Instead, Los Angeles matched the restricted free agent's offer Monday, keeping Jordan in Los Angeles and leaving the Warriors still searching for another big man.
"He told me after the first practice he needs what got me my job in the league - just rebound every single ball and block shots. Those are the two main things," Biedrins said. "I promised him that. I told him I have a different mindset, I had a good break and I came back and I feel good, I feel strong. And I will give everything that he needs."
The 25-year-old Biedrins, the 11th overall pick in the first round of the 2004 draft, has averaged only 5.0 points and just more than seven rebounds per game the past two years. He missed 23 games last season with a sprained left ankle, including the final 14.
That's after he entered the year convinced he was finally fully healthy again after a tough stretch of physical challenges. He was sidelined for the final 23 games of the 2009-10 season following surgery for a sports hernia and played only 33 contests in all because of groin problems.
His 5.0 points and 7.8 rebounds that season were his lowest totals since becoming a regular player in 2006-07 - then his rebounds fell to a 7.2 average last season.
He hasn't had much chance to find a consistent rhythm. All of that brought Biedrins down.
"A couple injuries set me back. I came back and wasn't so sure about myself and it was downhill from there on," he said. "Now, I feel good about myself. I had a great offseason. I think a lot of things are different now and now is the right time to get it back."
Biedrins considers this a fresh start under Jackson, a first-time coach determined for the Warriors to start playing serious defense. He has emphatically declared Golden State a playoff team even though the franchise has reached the postseason only once since 1994.
In July 2008, the Warriors re-signed Biedrins to a six-year contract worth more than $62 million, a nice reward for the restricted free agent who was coming off career highs of 10.5 points and 9.8 rebounds in his fourth NBA season.
He also led the NBA in field-goal percentage, making 62.6 percent of his shots. Biedrins had shown signs of becoming an all-around presence and force in the low post, not just a rebounding specialist.
Now, Jackson wants him to get back to the basics. Even Jackson noticed from afar that Biedrins lost his confidence.
"I'm a coach who believes in him, and I've already delivered the message that he'll get every opportunity to get back what he once had," Jackson said. "Watching him, you can see flashes of what made him a special player - great size, length, the ability to alter shots, rebound the basketball, finish at the rim. A lot of things where you can see he's a starting center in this league that I really like."
Biedrins has grown up away from basketball, too. He became a first-time father in April to a baby boy, Emils.
"I think him having a family now really changed him over the summer," star guard Monta Ellis said. "He looks like and feels like the old Andris, so time will tell. I hope everything we're taking from training camp and starting the first day will carry on."
Biedrins is convinced he can return to that former steady form.
"I do. I really do, and I'm on that path right now. I won't let anything drag me down," Biedrins said. "Now is my chance. The last two years were horrible for me. I know that, and everybody knows that."
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