Miami Heat

Miami Heat sign Chris 'Birdman' Andersen

 

The Heat, one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA, added some size with the signing of 6-10 veteran Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen.

bjackson@MiamiHerald.com

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, signing 6-10 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, averaging 5.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 15.2 minutes in 32 games.

“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 Birdman brings.”

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 in the game coming off the bench at his position as a shot-blocker and 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 regular-season games (including 10 starts) over 10 seasons, while shooting 50.8 percent from the field.

“We’ve always liked him,” Spoelstra said Sunday, after Andersen’s first practice with the team. “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 noncommittal about how much Andersen 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 signing. “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 add a guy to your team that can help you and you don’t have to worry about fitting him in offensively.”

James likes that Andersen plays with a chip on his shoulder: “That’s what we need. We love guys with chips.”

Center Chris Bosh, who averaged just 4.6 rebounds on the Heat’s six-game road trip, called Andersen “a great defender, very active.”

Andersen had minor arthroscopic knee surgery in August, and said he “didn’t even know if I would play this season.” He stayed in shape by doing “mountain training” in Colorado and other conditioning work in College Station, Texas,

Since working out for the Heat on Jan. 8, Andersen stayed in South Florida to focus on conditioning and basketball-specific work. He watched Heat games on television to familiarize himself with Miami’s system.

The Heat was not dissuaded by Andersen’s ongoing legal matter.

Last May, electronic equipment was seized from Andersen’s home, and his lawyers said a young woman from California claiming to be of legal age asked Andersen for money after he spurned her advances.

The Denver Post, citing a review of case documents, reported this month that the woman repeatedly represented herself to be of legal age and that her family later demanded payment from Andersen.

“I have cooperated fully with the authorities in Denver,” Andersen said Sunday. “I am not the target of the investigation. No arrests have been made and no charges have been filed against me.”

Andersen was banned from the NBA in 2006 for violating the league’s drug policy but was reinstated two years later.

Known for his colorful tattoos and Mohawk haircut, Andersen has spoken with Heat officials about the team’s culture.

“I was told about the code of conduct around here and I went into Pat Riley’s office and asked him if I could wear my headband because I do sweat a lot,” he said. “He’s like, ‘Yeah,’ because he didn’t want me perspiring on his nice floor.

“I’m a colorful guy, a good old country boy. I’m glad to be in Miami and playing professional basketball again. It beats sitting at home.”

This and that

• Spoelstra said re-signing Varnado instead of Josh Harrellson was “a tough decision. We like both of them. We liked what Varnado has done in the [NBA’s Development League]. We want to continue to evaluate him. That might not be the end of Josh’s future with us.”

• The Heat also is recalling center Dexter Pittman from the NBDL. Miami’s roster now stands at the maximum 15, including Pittman.

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