A celebration of the NBA's most infuriating players, both past and present. Read other NBA Shit List entries here.
Oakland's City Center is a collection of chain eateries that would be more at home in suburban San Diego than a city famous for violent crime and Bubb Rubb. It's the sort of place where inoffensive jazz quartets murder the standards for white-collar types on their lunch break, where kids play hooky from middle school, where the toughest decision anyone makes is "La Salsa or Popeye's?"
It was also, at least in 2004, where the Golden State Warriors introduced their newest draft pick to the public. That no one in attendance seemed to care did nothing to dissuade them.
For context: The Warriors' 2003 campaign was notable only for its perfunctory mediocrity. This was years before the We Believe team endeared themselves to America by upsetting the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, years before Stephen Jackson came to town, years before Baron Davis got fat, then left town to be called fat by a dissolute manvermin. The 2003 Warriors had holes everywhere, but they were especially thin at center, a position manned by the four-headed shit-hydra of Adonal Foyle, Cherokee Parks, Erick Dampier, and Popeye Jones.
And so the Warriors spent their single draft pick on a big man, an unknown Latvian by the name of Andris Biedrins.
"I am happy to be Warriors," said Andris on that bright Oakland afternoon. A microphone fed back. There was a smattering of applause.
Eight years later, Andris Biedrins is still Warriors. But there's no way he's happy.
The Shit List archives: Nick Young | Anthony Carter | Toney Douglas | Bill Cartwright | Dahntay Jones | DeShawn Stevenson | Michael Sweetney | Eddie House | Sasha Vujacic | Voshon Lenard | Eric Leckner | Dwight Howard | Antawn Jamison
Before he was investigated for tax evasion, before he was photographed enjoying what looked like a pretty good backseat blowjob, before he was leapfrogged in the depth chart by a man who was named for a Harry Potter spell, Andris Biedrins had promise. He once averaged a double-double. He once blocked Tim Duncan three times in a row. He had fabulously stupid hair.
But then it all went sour. Last year, Andris Biedrins set a record that, not unlike Cal Ripken Jr.'s streak, will likely stand till the end of time. Namely: He made one free throw. All year.
And no, this isn't some small-sample-size anomaly from a guy who gets only fistfuls of garbage-time minutes. No, that was in 738 minutes of playing time, some of them starter's minutes. One free throw made per 738 minutes, good enough to lead the league in John Hollinger's newest proprietary metric, SADSAD.
That he took only nine all year was an accomplishment in its own right, but I don't want anyone getting the idea that his problem lies in not getting to the line enough. The problem is that he can't shoot free throws anymore. There was a time when he could—not well, but not so badly that cheerleaders near the stanchion covered their faces. Fifty-two percent in 2006-07; 62 percent in 2007-08; 55 percent in 2008-09. And then something happened: 16 percent (4-for-25) in 2009-10; 10-for-31 (32 percent) in 2010-11; then of course last year's 11 percent. Some people blame injuries; others blame Don Nelson's peculiar brand of motivation by ridicule; still others say he simply stopped caring when he got paid. And, yes, Biedrins got injured before The Decline. And, yes, Don Nelson once suggested he shoot underhanded, apparently going so far as to line up Rick Barry for a granny-style clinic. And, yes, Biedrins did get paid. Oh, how he got paid—$9 million per free throw last year, to be exact.
But the world is an unknowable place; let's not play armchair sports psychologist with Biedrins. All we know for sure is that, at some point in 2009, Andris Biedrins could no longer shoot free throws. And that that's ruined everything.
If you've ever been to an open-mic comedy night, you know that peculiar feeling of vicarious embarrassment. There you are in the audience, watching some guy whose primary qualification is that his frat buddies once told him he's hilarious. Then he bombs. And he bombs. And he bombs again. A string of horrible jokes, each one more mercilessly unfunny than the last, each one more desperate and sweaty than the last, and you're sitting there in the dark, wincing into your gin and tonic, praying for someone, anyone, to put the poor guy out of his misery. But then, no: Here comes another one, and another one, and another one. You hate him, and you hate yourself for hating someone so pitiable.
That's what it's like watching Andris Biedrins now. The free-throw shooting seems to have broken the man. It's as if being historically bad at that one thing has rendered him ordinarily bad at everything else. He's taking fewer shots. He's not hitting the boards. He's fouling more. For three years, he's avoided the ball, avoided contact, avoided anything that would require him to do more than just pretend to play basketball. He's like the hungover bass player in some has-been hair-metal band, bleakly plucking an E string, wishing he were anywhere but this backwoods Indian casino.
No. Andris Biedrins is not having fun. He is not happy. When he gets a rebound or blocks a shot, there is no joy on his face. He doesn't give dap to his teammates or engage with the crowd. He sulks. He punches the clock. He is basketball Eeyore.
It's hard to even heckle him anymore. You feel like the protective parent of a talentless nobody. "Come on, Beans!" you yell when he comes in, cheering too hard when he does anything that borders on competence. "Good hustle!" you shout, because effort is a skill. "Oh, Jesus no!" you whisper, when he's fouled and heads to the free-throw line, where only shame awaits him. He'll miss twice, mope back on defense, get beaten to the rim, and get subbed out at the next dead ball.
Maybe he'll be spared, now that the Warriors have traded a guy who can't ride a Moped for Australia's best big. It's entirely possible that Biedrins and his bloated contract will spend dozens of games at a time mouldering at the end of bench, protected from the ignominy of actually playing basketball. Andrew Bogut will start. Festus Ezeli will be his backup. Carl Landry will get spot minutes. And Andris Biedrins will sit there in his ill-fitting Big and Tall suit, alone, hair shellacked to his head, dreaming of limousine blowjobs. Maybe then, he'll smile again.
Justin Tenuto is a Warrior fan from San Francisco. He is frequently disappointed. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org