Posted Dec 22 2011 10:30AM
OAKLAND -- Let's get right to it then. Opening night, this Sunday, Warriors against the Clippers at Oracle Arena. Andris Biedrins against DeAndre Jordan at center. Instant comparison.
The Warriors worked hard to replace Biedrins through free agency, making credible pitches to Tyson Chandler and Nene and signing Jordan to a four-year, $43-million offer sheet. It was as automatic a match by the Clippers as expected, saving them the time of having to negotiate the contract themselves. It was also proof of how insecure Golden State felt about the position.
Which makes Sunday, beyond the matchup between Biedrins and the guy the Warriors hoped to replace him, a lot about Biedrins vs. Biedrins as well.
Biedrins and his fragile confidence are a primary issue for a team planning to push into the playoffs defense first. If he's secure in his role despite very public attempts to unseat him, Golden State has a 7-foot shot blocker with speed who won't need the ball to make a difference.
If not, if Biedrins is making $9 million a year and playing in the fetal position, it's a blow that a bubble team cannot afford, forcing the Warriors to rely more on Kwame Brown and Ekpe Udoh at center.
Biedrins has gone from foundation of the future, after averaging a double-double in 2008-09 and coming close two other times, to major question mark after the last two seasons of injuries, frustration, poor play and shriveling under the criticism of former coach Don Nelson. He is, at age 25, suddenly a reclamation project.
"There is no doubt about it," Biedrins said of previous confidence issues. "A couple injuries set me back. I came back, wasn't so sure about myself, and from there it was just down the hill."
Taking other centers out for a test drive must have seemed another shove to the ground. But Biedrins, in a sign that he may have aged past the wrenching self-doubt, insists it wasn't.
"It's not," Biedrins countered. "At some point, it just makes you a little bit stronger, too, that they start looking for somebody else. It's like, 'No. No way. I can prove to them I'm better than those guys they're looking for.' Now is my chance. The last two years were horrible for me. I know that and everybody knows that. Now is the time to prove to them."
His coach of the moment, the third in as many seasons in Golden State, is perfect for Biedrins. Mark Jackson is a part-time pastor and full-time motivator who would will the Warriors into the playoffs if possible, a new leader who preaches defense and is heavy on charisma. Personality and defense -- that's speaking right to Biedrins.
Jackson is also the coach who, when asked on the first day of camp whether Biedrins was definitely his starting center, replied, "He's definitely a center on this basketball team." So at least no one is hiding the fact that Biedrins begins the season needing to win over his own team.
"It is what it is," said Biedrins, who put on 15 pounds in the offseason. "Obviously I didn't play my game the last two seasons, and I don't blame them if they started looking for another guy because I was not really great the last two seasons. That's the way the business is. There is nothing you can do about it. Just come back and play strong and show them again that you are worth having around now."
Training camp and preseason have been encouraging, with active, focused play. Now come opening night against Jordan and the Clippers, Game 2 against the Bulls and the unit that topped the league in rebounding percentage last season, Game 3 against Chandler and the Knicks.
"I really don't know what it was the last three years," teammate Monta Ellis said. "But this year is a new Andris. Him having a family now really changed him over the summer. He looks like and feels like the old Andris. Time will tell."
That disclaimer is mandatory, because training camp means nothing compared to the matchups that fate has delivered to Biedrins. Both Jordan and Chandler in the first week. And a lot of Biedrins vs. Biedrins, too.
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