LOS ANGELES – While players such as Adonal Foyle, Ike Diogu, Anthony Roberson and Matt Barnes all tried to prove themselves to Warriors Coach Don Nelson on Friday, a healthy Andris Biedrins never got off the bench in Golden State’s 116-106 exhibition victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. In past years, that might have been an alarming turn of events for Biedrins. This season, however, the third-year center has no reason to worry. He’s already shown to Nelson that he’s ready to be a key component of this team.
“He doesn’t have to prove that to me. I already know that,” Nelson said. “He’s probably my best big man. He’ll play a lot.”
It’s a just reward for Biedrins, who clocked in as much time at the team’s downtown Oakland headquarters this summer as any Warrior, and also converted to the church of good eating. The 20-year-old Latvian has dropped roughly 15 pounds of fat while gaining twice that much in muscle mass. Warriors strength coach John Murray said Biedrins had dropped his body fat from 14 percent a year ago to just 5.
“He’s playing hard, playing good defense, rebounding and doing what he needs to do to stay on the floor. He’s out there to prove a point,” Warriors captain Jason Richardson said. “He’s definitely gained maturity as a player. He’s listening a lot more and his body’s more physical. He’s gotten stronger.”
Biedrins, 6-foot-11, has also gotten quicker as a result of those changes, a fact that gets put to good use constantly in Nelson’s new system.
“I don’t know if he knew coach (Nelson) was going to be here when he slimmed down, but it’s a good thing he did that,” guard Monta Ellis said. “If you’re running the break, just you and him, you don’t think, `Well, I’ve got to lay this up because he’s not running.’ He’s always going to be there.”
Biedrins has consistently impressed Nelson, who gushed over him following a 6-for-6 shooting effort with seven rebounds in 18 minutes during Thursday’s victory over the New Orleans Hornets.
“That guy, wow,” Nelson said. “Oh my goodness. He and a couple of other guys played well and carried us to a win. That’s how good he was.”
How good he can be, and how much of an impact he can make, depends on a few factors. Troy Murphy — whom Nelson exempted from the “big man” category that Biedrins leads, saying that Murphy was “a 4 turned 5” — is still starting at center, and there’s no sign that’s going to change soon.