O'Bryant, 21, has shown during training camp and in exhibition games that he could develop into a presence in the paint. "He's much better than he was last season," Biedrins says. "He's much more confident, and he's stronger since he's been working every day with John (strength and conditioning coach Murray). He's stronger and quicker than he was last year. It's made a big difference."Still, for every wowsome blocked shot, there is a silly foul. For every clever pass, there is a flat-footed Patrick. Big men who enter the league unpolished can take a few years to find their level, but O'Bryant's inconsistencies have been his biggest enemy -- and have gotten under Nelson's skin. Which puts Patrick in that place so many others -- Sarunas Marciulionis, Tyrone Hill, Chris Gatling to name three -- came to know. It's not quite the doghouse, but it's close enough to smell the mutt chow.
"I've been cussed at my whole life by coaches," O'Bryant says. "It was nothing new." That's Patrick. Doesn't get too excited, doesn't project a great deal of energy. Which puts him at odds with a Warriors team built to sprint, often using emotion as fuel. What the coach, and perhaps a few teammates, want to see is a sense of urgency. How much does he care? How hard will he push himself? How badly does he want to find his ceiling?
Nelson said that O'Bryant's solid pre-season play had basically locked in him as the back-up center. Of course, O'Bryant proceeded to get knocked around against the Lithuanians and after the game Nelson was slightly less enthused about O'Bryant. Much less enthused. ''Scratch that story,'' Nelson said when I asked him if I should still write about O'Bryant's improvement.
In the space of two games against the Lakers, second-year center Patrick O'Bryant -- who made headlines during his lost rookie season for becoming the first top-10 pick to be sent to the NBA Development League -- established himself as a legitimate option. "I could not ask for anything better" out of the trip, O'Bryant said. In the wake of 12 rebounds and three blocked shots in the Warriors' exhibition opener on Tuesday, O'Bryant finished with 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting, plus five rebounds and four assists on Thursday.
"He's made tremendous progress, I'm very happy about him," Nelson said. "He needs to be more alert, and he can't stop improving, but I never thought I could play him 20 minutes in an NBA game and survive, but by golly I did." O'Bryant put his 7-foot-6 wingspan to good use not only blocking shots but also deflecting passes, in some cases gobbling them up to create fast-break buckets for teammates. He played with more obvious vigor than he did at any point during his 119 minutes of action with the Warriors last season.