Warriors coach Keith Smart, before the game against the Los Angeles Lakers, did all he could to end the conversation about the struggles of his starting center.
"Andris Biedrins," he said, "is my starting center."
Then, Wednesday night, Biedrins went out and did all he could to keep the conversation going. In 25 minutes, he totaled two points, three rebounds, two turnovers and six fouls. His lack of production was all the more glaring next to the Lakers' dominant big men.
It's been four games since Biedrins returned from a sprained left ankle, which kept him out nine games, and so far he's been a shell of himself. Unfortunately for the Warriors, this is what they've deemed their most important stretch of season. This is what they've been waiting for, to have everybody clicking.
But their starting center seems to be flailing.
In those four games, Biedrins has logged 83 minutes. During that span, he has almost as many fouls (18) as rebounds (19). And he has been nonexistent on offense, with four field goals and four turnovers.
When the Warriors play good opposing big men -- as they will Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, who boast ridiculous athletes in power forward Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan -- Biedrins' struggles are magnified.
It has become increasingly obvious Golden State's chances for success hinge on Biedrins being the active, rebounding, energetic presence he is at his best. It's
Smart doesn't want to put power forward David Lee at center because he prefers to use the small lineup only situationally. And the Warriors don't have a center better than Biedrins.
Despite his recent struggles, Biedrins is still 10th in the league in rebounds per 48 minutes (he's 20th in rebounds per game: 9.1). Though he's down from his career average, Biedrins is still shooting 54.1 percent from the field.
Considering Biedrins' importance to the team, several players have said they will start doing their part to get him involved. In the past, early baskets have been known to put some pep in his step. But Biedrins hasn't taken more than two shots in a game since his return and has been a forgotten man on offense.
Just before he returned to the lineup, Biedrins didn't want to wax poetic about how good the Warriors would be once they got everyone healthy.
"I don't want to say how good we're going to be," he said, "I want to just go out there and be good. We've got to do it."
It's clear they can't do it without him.
L.A. Clippers (13-24) at Warriors (15-23), 7:30 p.m. CSNBA