Click photo to enlarge
Golden State Warriors teammates from left, #25 Rodney Carney, #8 Monta Ellis, #15 Andris Biedrins, and #10 David Lee, celebrate after winning their basketball game against the Houston Rockets 132 to 128 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010. (Doug Duran/Staff)

The idea was sound and the goal overdue when the Warriors last spring vowed, for the umpteenth consecutive season, to add size.

They would get bigger and taller and longer, through the draft or a trade or free agency -- or all three.

And management followed through, delivering on the most conspicuous and long-standing of its unmet aspirations.

General manager Larry Riley and his staff used all three devices to get help for Andris Biedrins, the 7-footer from Latvia, whose six years in the NBA have been defined by evident promise, nagging injuries, steady rebounding, bouts of self-doubt and, most consistently, little support in the paint.

Yet Friday, when the New York Knicks show up to face the Warriors at Oracle Arena, Biedrins will be right back in the role he knows so well.

In the middle, mostly alone, as smaller teammates scamper and flit about the floor.

"Hey, it's just like the last couple of years," Biedrins was saying after practice Wednesday, laughing at the turn of events.

David Lee, the 6-9, 240-pound power forward acquired in a sign-and-trade deal with the Knicks, started the first eight games but is out while receiving treatment for an infection. He hopes to return this month.

Ekpe Udoh, the 6-10, 245-pound forward drafted with the sixth overall pick, will continue to rehabilitate after undergoing surgery in July to repair torn ligaments in his wrist. He hopes to make his pro debut early next month.


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Lou Amundson, a 6-9, 225-pound forward who signed as a free agent, still is mending after October surgery on his right index finger. He also could return next month.

The big-man cavalry that arrived over the summer is temporarily unavailable, leaving Biedrins to patrol the middle for a team that, under first-year coach Keith Smart, has taken visible measures to add defense to its repertoire.

"It will be hard," Biedrins says of his task over the next several games, "but I think guys will step up from the bench. Guys like Brandan (Wright) and Jeff Adrien. We need them, especially now that we're missing D-Lee. We just have to fight through. It's a chance for other guys to step up and show what they got."

It's also a chance for Biedrins to show, at 24, he's ready to be the player he seemed on the verge of becoming three years ago. That season, he led the league in field-goal percentage (62.6) and finished 11th in rebounding (9.8). But the highlight was when he averaged 16 points and 15.7 rebounds over the final seven games as the Warriors sprinted to the finish in a failed attempt for a second consecutive playoffs appearance.

To return to that level, Biedrins also has to prove he's beyond the psychological bruises inflicted by the withering public criticisms of former coach Don Nelson.

That's where Smart comes in. He realized upon replacing Nelson the importance of rebuilding the self-esteem of several players, none more than Biedrins. The new coach flew to Latvia last summer and spent 10 days with the center, working on drills and letting the conversation wander.

"Two practices a day, every day, in the gym" Smart recalls. "Then we would sit and talk about life, what's happening in his life and with his family."

This was Smart's third offseason visit with Biedrins in Latvia, and it strengthened an already strong bond between the two.

"I have a great relationship with him," Biedrins says. "Probably the best relationship of anybody on the team."

So now it's about turning this coexistence into production. Averaging 6.1 points and 9.2 rebounds, including a 20-rebound game two weeks ago in a win over Utah, Biedrins shows signs of finding himself.

"We're still trying to make sure he doesn't get frustrated on the floor with the one thing he's doing wrong," Smart says, "when he's doing 99 things well."

Biedrins got engaged last summer, while getting into "the best shape of my life." Healthy and grounded, he ought to be able to handle challenges both immediate and long term.

"I'm really enjoying it a lot now," Biedrins says. "I've had some tough years, some good years. I've seen everything. The last two years were really hard.

"The change is good. With new people being brought in, Coach Keith now being the head coach, a mostly new coaching staff and basically a brand new team, people are happy to be here working together."

With four years and $36 million remaining on his contract, Biedrins says he likes it here and wants to spend his entire career with the Warriors.

Those sentiments should grow stronger once the cavalry arrives.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.