heinnews’s David Hein this week is still at the 2009 EuroBasket Women in Latvia but spotted Latvian men’s national team star Andris Biedrins in the stands in Riga. And the Golden State Warriors big man took some time to talk about living in Oakland; the Stanley Cup playoffs; the Latvian women’s national team; having the EuroBasket Women in his home country; being a co-captain with Golden State; the Latvian men’s national team’s chances at 2009 EuroBasket in Poland; and new team coach Kestutis Kemzura.
heinnews: So you live in Oakland. How do you like it in Oakland?
Biedrins: It’s nice. I like it there. I’ve been there now for five years. The weather is nice. You have San Francisco right there, a beautiful city. Yeah, it’s pretty good.
heinnews: How is that morning fog?
Biedrins: Nah, it’s not as bad as people think.
heinnews: Were you surprised that the Pittsburgh Penguins took the NHL Stanley Cup?
Biedrins: Yeah, but I was happy. Everybody was cheering for the Red Wings. But Pittsburgh were the underdogs, so I was happy about that – that a new team won the championship. And they played good.
heinnews: What about the conference semi-finals between Sidney Crosby’s Penguins and Alex Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals?
Biedrins: Now that was nice. I was cheering for Ovechkin. That was really the best series this year. Oh my goodness. That one game when they both scored a hat-trick. That was amazing. That was ridiculous.
heinnews: You came into this season after having signed a big contract extension (6 years for 54 million). Did you feel any added pressure at all because of that?
Biedrins: Not really. I knew I had a really great relationship with my team. I knew that they really like me. I was just waiting for last summer to come and we made a good deal.
heinnews: This season you were also a co-captain with the Warriors. How did that feel?
Biedrins: It feels really good. But it feels kind of weird because I am one of the youngest guys on the Warriors. But I also have been there so long already. It’s pretty crazy how quick time is going by. But it was a great honor when coach told me I was going to be one of the captains. It’s a great honor that coach trusts me. Definitely a good feeling.
heinnews: You were 17 years old when you were drafted and 18 years old when you started with the Warriors. Now you are 23. How have you changed as a person in that time?
Biedrins: It was a long way. My first two years I really didn’t play a lot. I really needed to practice a lot and get stronger. It was a long way but in the end I got to where I wanted to be.
heinnews: I saw you had eight assists in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers in January. Was that you trying to get Phil Jackson’s attention that you could play in his triangle offense?
Biedrins: Nah, nah, nah. I always try to share the ball with my teammates. If I see somebody has a better shot than me I will give up the ball. I don’t care about myself. It was just a good game for me.
heinnews: You do a lot of charity work, including seeing American soldiers who came back injured from time in Iraq. How was that experience?
Biedrins: That was in Washington two years ago. We just wanted to see the soldiers and try to cheer them up. We just shook their hands and it was a great feeling. We do a lot of stuff. And it’s always really good to give back to the community. For Thanksgiving we give food away. And for Christmas we give presents away. It’s really nice. I also have my own charity for tickets. It’s good. There are so many people who are just happy to see you. And to give them a little thing like something for Thanksgiving and they are so happy. Those things don’t take a lot of energy. You just show up and chat with them. And that will make their day or month.
heinnews: Last season you were a blogger for the Warriors website. Did you like that?
Biedrins: Yeah, it was pretty good. It was nice to chat with the fans. They always want to know a little bit more. Not really about on the court. They want to know about stuff off the court. What you do in your free time. How you bring it. So it was good to keep up for the fans.
heinnews: How much do you keep up with European basketball? Are there any websites you look at?
Biedrins: Not really. We have so many games, like four or five a week. We really don’t have a lot of free time. I read a little about Latvian basketball because I have friends who play on Latvian teams. So I follow that a little bit and check it out.
heinnews: You have been at every game of the Latvian team at the 2009 EuroBasket Women. What do you think about this event and having the European Championship in your home country?
Biedrins: It’s wonderful. First of all, our team is really, really good. They went to the Olympics. They are playing really well. That’s what we need now, especially with the economy how it is here now. So it’s really great that we have something so positive for people to cheer for.
heinnews: Latvia guard Anete Jekabsone-Zogota has been lighting it up in this tournament. What do you think about her?
Biedrins: Man, she’s unbelievable. She’s a true leader. When the team is struggling she’ll be the first person to take and make the shot. I saw the first four games and kept wondering why she doesn’t shoot even more because every time she gets the ball she scores or gives a good pass for an assist. Sometimes I’m mad at her because she’s got a great shot. She can go to the basket. She can hit the three-pointer. Basically she has everything you can ask for. She’s a true leader.
heinnews: Alright, compare American and European cheerleaders.
Biedrins: Cheerleaders? Ah, I don’t want to say anything about that (laughing).
heinnews: That’s cool. Okay, EuroBasket is coming up in Poland. In their first round group, Latvia have Germany maybe without Nowitzki and Kaman; Russia without Kirilenko and then eight France, Italy or whoever the qualifier may be. What do you think about Latvia’s group?
Biedrins: There are never any easy teams. I think this year could be one of our best years because now it looks like we will have every single player we can ask for in the national team. This could be the strongest national team in the last few years if everyone comes together. So I’m really looking forward to it. It doesn’t matter that we have Russia, Germany, Italy or France. Our team is unpredictable. Two years ago we beat Croatia but lost to Portugal. So you never know what can happen. So it really doesn’t matter who you play against.
heinnews: How big is the motivation from two years ago when you lost against Portugal to go home?
Biedrins: It was really tough, especially when Croatia beat Spain. If Spain had beat Croatia we would have gone to the next round. It was kind of disappointing. We always play better against stronger teams than weaker teams. It will be all right. I think we have enough motivation for this championship in Poland.
heinnews: What do you think about Latvian national team colleague Kaspars Kambala becoming a professional boxer during his two-year suspension from basketball? Did you go to any of his fights?
Biedrins: No, I was in America all the time when he was fighting. I saw one of his fights on the Internet. It was pretty good. We’re really glad that he’s back. And he’s willing to participate in the national team, so I’m looking forward to it. I’ve never played with him. So it will be a lot of fun.
heinnews: Here is the last question. What is your feeling about the new Latvian national team coach Kestutis Kemzura?
Biedrins: I didn’t know the coach before. I met him one time a couple weeks ago for about a half-hour. We talked in general. We introduced ourselves. We just talked to try to get to know each other better and talk about what we need to do with the national team and how I can help more. But he’s a great guy and I think we’ll have a great success together with him.
heinnews: Okay, have a great preparation and stay healthy and we’ll see you in Poland.
Biedrins: Thanks, take care