Farewell, Andris Biedrins

The Utah Jazz, in order to make room for a waiver claim of Erik Murphy, have apparently released Andris Biedrins on Saturday. It’s a low-risk move for Utah, who take a flier on a young big that might eventually provide some spacing off the bench, that oddly affects the luxury tax fortunes of the Chicago Bulls as well, as the team that initially waived Murphy hoping exactly for another team to claim him. It’s also a move that, barring a major surprise, probably represents the end of Biedrins’ NBA career.

To be fair, the end has been long in the making, perhaps delayed only by the Warriors’ haste to use their amnesty clause on Charlie Bell so they could sign DeAndre Jordan to an offer sheet (man, post-lockout offseason, you were crazy). In the meanwhile, Biedrins has mostly served as That Free Throw Guy, shooting an appalling 20 for 84 from the line over the past 5 NBA seasons. “Andris Biedrins Free Throws” is the first Biedrins-related autocomplete on Youtube, and the second on Google; it has defined him as a basketball player and as an entity that is referred to by the internet.

In light of such charity stripe infamy, it’s easy to forget Biedrins used to be a legitimately intriguing long-term prospect with tangible short-term effects on basketball games. The massive 6 year, $54 million megadeal that will finally expire this June has long joined the list of hilarious big man overpays, but when it was penned it made perfect sense. 2009 Andris Biedrins was a guaranteed double-double, averaging a whopping 14 and 13 per 36 minutes just a year after 2008 Andris Biedrins lead the league in field goal percentage. He was a springy menace with hair gel, the tough big man to counter the soft bust to counter the Dirk Nowitzki of European draft picks. For all of the We Believe Warriors smallball lore, Biedrins averaged nearly 25 minutes a night during that special 2007 playoff run (though admittedly, the bulk of those minutes cam in the later Utah series). We’ve seen lesser prospects get bigger paydays because they were 7 feet tall and kinda friendly lookin’. Andris was legit.

Alas, much like those Warriors, Biedrins’ game fell completely apart, for an amalgamation of reasons that nonetheless feels like it shouldn’t have been enough to stop him. As his free throw proficiency deteriorated from subpar to unseemly, so did Baron Davis cross the bridge to Los Angeles to make himself fat; as injuries denied him a true follow-up to his monster 08-09 campaign, so did Monta Ellis decide mo-peds were cool as the Warriors traded Jason Richardson for a young and fragile Brandan Wright; and as a decadent Don Nelson sucked the lifeblood from poor Andris, so did… well, a decadent Don Nelson suck the lifeblood from the poor Warriors.

Much like the relics of that singular flash in the pan, Andris was eventually solemnly salvaged. The Warriors’ struggles in the years following their playoff run gave them the lottery picks that became Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, whereas the dead weight of Biedrins’ deal was used in the Andre Iguodala sign and trade. Such is life in the NBA, where death becomes ash becomes draft picks and cap space, and a young big man’s internal rot becomes external stench becomes a salary dump packaged with two future picks.

Only time will tell whether Golden State’s long trudge through the lottery will reap rewards of equal but opposite magnitude, thus further dulling the disappointment from Biedrins’ developmental downfall. Regardless, as he walks away from an NBA roster with little guarantee of a return, it’s good to remember that there used to be something there.

Noam Schiller

Noam Schiller lives in Jerusalem, where he sifts through League Pass Broadband delay and insomnia in a misguided effort to watch as much basketball as possible. He usually fails miserably, but is entertained nonetheless. He prefers passing big men to rebounding guards but sees no reason why he should have to compromise on any of them.