Warriors focusing offense on Biedrins
By Geoff Lepper
OAKLAND — With the Warriors nursing a two-point lead and less than 3 minutes to go Wednesday against the Denver Nuggets, Golden State coach Don Nelson called for “one flop, point-five.”
The objective was to have a little give-and-go between Andris Biedrins and Stephen Jackson. Biedrins would feed Jackson the ball at the elbow on one side of the lane, saunter up to his position, then take a handoff back from Jackson while breaking into a sprint past his defender and to the rim.
It all sounded good in theory. More and more this season, Biedrins has been showing the perimeter abilities that executive vice president Chris Mullin has long maintained were in the fourth-year center’s arsenal, dating back to his days as a teenager in Latvia who despite his nearly 7-foot frame played on the wing, not in the paint.
There was, however, one problem. When Biedrins, a lefty, took possession of the ball at the midcourt line, Jackson was lined up on the right-hand side of the lane, with the other three Warriors clogging up the left side of the court.
“Before that play, I told Jack, ‘Go on the left side,’” Biedrins recalled Thursday. “And then I’m running down and I see he’s standing (on the right) and I’m like, ‘C’mon, Jack.’ I was like, ‘OK, let’s run it anyway.’ There was no time to move everything around.”
There was no need, either. Biedrins took one dribble with his unfamiliar right hand, two giant steps and then rammed the ball home for a one-handed righty slam over the attempted block by Denver’s Nene.
“I’ve never seen him really take it all the way with his right (hand) like that,” Nelson said. “That was quite a play.”
It’s just one of many plays Biedrins has made for the Warriors this season. Nelson said at the outset of training camp that Biedrins would be handling the ball more, and that level of responsibility has been rising lately as the rest of Golden State’s roster struggles from the floor.
Biedrins, who Thursday received a wooden plaque from the league commemorating his league-leading field-goal percentage in 2007-08, is shooting 58.3 percent this season; the remainder of the Warriors are hitting at a combined 39.7 clip.
“He’s playing the best out of anybody on the team right now and he’s shooting the best, so I think it’s only right that he touches the ball more,” Jackson said. “We’ll see what kind of momentum he can give us, and see if he can get our offense going.”
The “one flop” series, which was installed recently, gives Nelson more options in terms of delivering the ball to Biedrins. That’s emblematic of the change in Biedrins’ status; after spending his rookie year glued to the bench and a couple seasons after that as little more than a glorified garbage man, he is fast becoming a focal point for the Warriors.
“He’s been our best player, no question,” Nelson said. “He needs to get the ball more, and he’s gonna get the ball more. That’s just gonna be a fact.”
Against Denver, Biedrins was on the floor for 60 half-court sets. He was the target of the play on 22 of those occasions, and had a hand in another 14 plays, usually as a primary screener at the top of the key.
As the Nuggets did on Wednesday, most teams are sagging back whenever Biedrins is part of a pick-and-roll situation, aware that’s how he converted so many easy layups last season.
To counteract that, the Warriors are using Biedrins in other ways, such as posting him midway up the lane and them having him turn and face up to the basket. Biedrins used that maneuver on Nuggets backup center Chris Andersen twice in the final 1:11 of the third quarter, turning from the right block, jab-stepping towards the baseline to get Andersen moving that direction, then spinning back into the lane and converting a pair of 3-foot layups.
“Coach said to me that he thinks I’m better when I’m facing up than with my back to the basket, because when I face up I can really use my quickness, spins and all that kind of stuff, and big guys, they have a hard time to guard me like that,” Biedrins said. “Now, he says, ‘Don’t catch the ball after the pick-and-rolls, don’t really roll down, just stop a little bit before the paint, and then use the ball and then use your quickness and then go to the basket.’ Everybody knows that we have that pick-and-roll game and everybody’s already packing the paint. Everybody’s waiting for me right there, so it’s really difficult for Jack or anybody to give me that pass.”
Biedrins has spent the last two seasons with the Latvian national team, and said that experience of being the leading light for that squad — he often faced double- and triple-teams in the European Championships and qualifying competitions — has helped bolster his confidence.
“I have freedom there and I almost get the ball every single time we go on offense, and I really can create. It’s not like I’m scoring off the pick and rolls. There, they just give me the ball and I have to create my own offense. . . . Coming here after that summer, I was feeling really great about myself doing more things on the offensive end.”
He was double teamed a few times Wednesday in the block, and dealt with it fairly well. Once, he found Al Harrington for a jumper, leading to two foul shots. Another time, he set up Brandan Wright for an open look in the lane, but Wright missed the shot. A third time, Biedrins got a little too ambitious and his skip pass was gobbled up by Nuggets guard J.R. Smith.
“Right now, he’s doing everything that we’re trying to do as a team,” forward Al Harrington said. “We could probably start games with him, and maybe it could become contagious. As of right now, he’s doing things offensively that’s showing the type of guy that could be a go-to guy. We’ve just got to keep pushing it and let him do that. Because obviously most great teams do have an inside presence and they work their way out, not outside in.”
7 Responses to “Warriors focusing offense on Biedrins”
If we had better outside shooters the offense would expand immeasurably due to Biedrin’s increased presence in the offense. He’s a good passer, an underdeveloped talent (hello, Nelson, wake up!). It tells you a lot about Nelson that Andris really developed his game under his Latvian coach, not under Nelson, whose comment last year about Biedrins: “He’s really a better player when you don’t run any offense for him.”
M.Squared November 7th, 2008 at 12:06 pm
Hopefully Nelson sticks to this. he really only has a histroy of developing big guys that possess “small man” skills ( aka- Dirk). If Biedrens can continue to make those swirling moves to the rim work- then lets get him the ball.
Interesting article on Smith/Wright. I don’t see too many similarities in their game- but If Wright continues- he could have a similar ascension as far as developing into a solid rebounder and shot blocker with a offense that will slowly get better over the next 2 seasons.
Question: i have heard about 2 deals for Harrington- 1 was Malik Rose (expiring deal) and David Lee which I would do - no problem. Lee can play 2 spots on the floor and can either start or come off the bench. I like his energy and think he could be signed to a reasonable deal. He would be an asset to keep or trade in the upcoming years. There was another deal that really raised my eyebrows though- it involved Gerald Wallace. Now, I really dont know what the hell the Warriors would do with Wallace, Maggette, Jack and Buike…… but- this is a guy that I have loved for a long long time. He has 4 years left on his deal - but is a very productive player, defends, blocks shots, boards, slashes. So much that- I would almost rather have him than either Jack or Maggette. Realistically- Jack isnt going anywhere- (not now at least)- so I wonder how it would be if Maggette were moved later in the year or in the offseason. The fact is- that Azibuike plays a very similar game to Maggette but shoots a better 3 while Maggette is probably a bit stronger in rebounding and is obviously a bit stronger overall at this point in his career while Buike is still growing. Jack and Wallace could start with Ellis, AB and Wright and you would have Buike, Randolph, Turiaf and a PG (from the Maggette trade) as your bench. I am doubtful the Ws would go this route- but I think they would be foolish to pass up on a guy like Wallace.
So back to my question: have you heard anything about Wallace in talks or is this complete rumor?
just wanted to thank you for this blog. You’re providing a wealth of awesome information and analysis. We really appreciate it!!!!
JamesOnline nails it again. I’ve been a big Goose booster forever, and could not fathom why the Warriors’ coaches — and there are many — NEVER focused on having him square up, cuz he’s so quick and nimble. Now we learn that Goose had to develop his offense on his own in Latvia. Go figure. You’d think Nellie would know something about teaching big guys, but I guess he’s never had that ability. (JO: while I concede your points about Wright, I’d still give him some time; and I saw him hit an 8-foot jumper from the left baseline in the Denver game, so it’s not all basket play with him anymore.)
MSquared: I’d take either of those deals in a heartbeat, especially the trade for Lee. But I can’t believe we’d get anything like that for Al.
Finally, terific reportage here Geoff. I hadn’t seen the Goose quotes anywhere.
M.Squared November 7th, 2008 at 2:24 pm
The Wallace deal sounds pretty far fetched, I agree- but the Lee deal is for real. NY can’t sign him because the deal would take them beyond 2010 where it would cut into the LBJ sweepstakes. This is the one steadfast goal of that organization- no deal that runs past 2010. But-they don’t want to give up Lee and get nothing in the summer and D’Antonio likes bigs that can run and shoot. Supposedly- him and Donnie Walsh both value big Al despite his big Whine.
One rumor has it though that Charlote wants Lee and is willing to take on Malik Rose for the rest of the year too with Wallce going to the Dubs and Al in NY. I am guessing GS might also have to put Bellinelli in that mix to Charlotte too. If I am GS- I do that deal and sort out the duplicate guys throughout this season and the summer. There are some instances where Maggette or Jack can slide to the 4 in a small line up and play with AB, Ellis and Wallace. Ideally though- Wright would start and Maggette or Wallace would be 6th man. If they keep Maggettes value up- You can work a 2 for one in the summer and try to land a star or role players ( at the 1 &4 positions) to strengthen the team.
Why this doesnt work: I just don’t get why Charlotte would want to dump Wallace. Him and Jrich are their best players. Felton is inconsistent. Augustin isn’t there yet. Okefor hasn’t lived up to his projections and all their other pics ( May , Morrison etc… ) are pretty much a bag of parts. Still - Larry Brown has a history of souring on players that don’t do exactly as he says.
Last note on this- when the Harrington/jackson deal took place- the Warriors had a lot of similar parts then as well- Lots of 2’s and 3’s- JR, Jack,Petruis, Barnes, Ellis. Not much in the middle - raw Andris and thin at PF and point- Harrington and Davis. The result was a pretty sweet playoff run. This type of deal for Wallace would do the same thing- but it would make the team better and would provide a lot of interchangeble parts that can be used for future deals ( which is how Mullin “almost” landed KG).
Wow. Nellie just realized what many of us have been saying for years….”Biedrins can be an offensive option! He needs to play more minutes!” Too bad Nellie just realizing this now and didn’t include him more in last years playoff push. We could have used him. Oh well, better late than never, I guess.
Playing for Latvia allowed Biedrins to showcase what he could already do. It wasn’t his coach’s instruction that made him successful, it was his coaches trust that allowed Biedrins to improvise in the paint. He’s always had the great hands, quickness, and solid ball handling. Nothing has changed, except for maybe his confidence level. But that confidence wasn’t allowed to grow as a Warrior last year because plays were rarely ran for Biedrins and Harrington was a more favorable option at Center in Nellie’s eyes.
Nellie’s great, but he also needs to be open to other ideas and to the fact that maybe, just maybe, his approach is not always the best approach.
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