LeBron James admitted Sunday that playing against bigger teams has “worn” on Heat players at times this season. So has the frequent pounding on the boards, with Miami next-to-last in the league in rebounding.
On Sunday, the Heat did something to address both, adding 6-10 veteran forward/center Chris “Birdman” Andersen to a 10-day contract. Miami also re-signed center Jarvis Varnado to a second 10-day contract.
“I’m overwhelmed, ecstatic to be here, grateful for this opportunity,” said Andersen, who last played in the league for Denver last season, where he averaged 5.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 15.2 minutes in 32 games.
“Being with the defending champs, it’s a dream come true. They’re taking a chance with me and I’m here to give them everything I've got – defensively, diving on the floor, blocking shots, the usual [stuff] Birdman brings. It’s a great fit for me.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra said Andersen’s “skill set fits the style of basketball we like to play. Typically, you’re not able to get a player of his caliber this time of year. Three years ago, he was the best at the game coming off the bench at his position as a shot-blocker and a rebounder. This [move] unanimously made sense to everybody.”
Nicknamed “Birdman” by teammates years ago because he jumps and “flies around” on the court, the 34-year-old Andersen has averaged 5.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 17.8 minutes in 482 games (including 10 starts) over 10 seasons, while shooting 50.8 percent from the field.
“We’ve always liked him,” Spoelstra said. “We had him in our camp a long time ago, when he was pre-tattoo. Ever since that day, we’ve searched for ways to get him back but there was no way to pry him from Denver. He has a lean body, a live body even at his age. Even with a lot of time off, he still had his quick twitch and his athleticism.”
Spoelstra was non-committal about how much he would play immediately, saying he “needs to learn our system first, though you can see he fits in very well with what we do.”
The Heat’s stars endorsed the move. “It has to make us better on paper. We’ll see when we get in the game,” Dwyane Wade said. “What he brings is his energy, effort, uncanny ability to rebound and block shots. It’s a great addition when you can a guy to your team that can help you and you don’t have to worry about fitting him in offensively.
“He’s kind of like a [Udonis Haslem]. Certain guys you respect because every time they get on the floor, they put their all into it. They’re game changers in a sense. You always look at guys like him and say, ‘That’s a guy you would love to have on your roster.’ We’ve always had one with U.D. Now to be able to add another one is good.”
James likes that Andersen plays with a chip on his shoulder: “That’s what we need. We love guys with chips. Hopefully he plays with that type of intensity.”
Center Chris Bosh, who averaged just 4.6 rebounds on the Heat’s six-game road trip, said Andersen “is a great defender. He’s just very active.”
Andersen had minor arthroscopic knee surgery in August, and said he “didn’t even know if I would play this season.” But he’s healthy now and in one of several references to himself in the third person, said the knee procedure “isn’t going to keep the Birdman from flying in there and banging and getting rebounds.”