Chris Andersen might have been downright hawkish on the court against the Philadelphia 76ers but afterward he turned into a bashful little bird.
The self-described “Birdman” had 15 rebounds Saturday night in the Heat’s 15th consecutive regular-season victory over Philadelphia. Naturally, a few people wanted to talk to Andersen after the game. But “Bird” — and that’s the name he asks members of the news media to call him — wanted nothing to do with the stylized fawning of reporters.
As if soft-ball questions might in some way soften the hardened exterior of this comic-book character come to life, the enigmatic Andersen waited until every last notebook and camera had left the locker room before he emerged to dress himself.
Three times Andersen peaked his head into locker room, and three times he retreated at the sight of the press horde.
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With eight boards against the Bobcats on Friday, Andersen set an individual season high in rebounds. Less than 24 hours later, he nearly doubled that effort against the undersized 76ers.
Andersen has warned reporters about noting this next statistic — he wants absolutely no praise and feels he deserves none — but his teammates are not so easily comprised.
It’s no coincidence that the Heat is 33-3 since Andersen made his debut on Jan. 25.
How much of an impact has Andersen’s frenetic style had on the overall improvement of the team? LeBron James likens picking up Andersen for a veteran’s minimum contract to theft.
“I think his impact is something we … we stole him,” James said. “We stole Bird, I mean. His activity, his high energy, it’s in those ranks of Joakim Noah, Anderson Varejao, those type of guys that go all the way until their tank is empty and then they fill it back up and then they go all the way out until the tank is empty again.
“And there’s not many guys like that in our league.”
The Heat lacked the archetypal “energy player” in the 2012 playoffs, and it nearly cost Miami everything in its second-round series against the Indiana Pacers. On Saturday, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said several of Andersen’s rebounds against Philadelphia were of the “playoff” variety.
Although the addition of Andersen has no doubt helped the Heat secure the top record in the NBA and — in the process — record the second-longest winning streak in NBA history (27), the Heat expects the real value of bringing Andersen out of retirement to manifest itself in the postseason.
“He’s a great in-traffic, two-handed rebounder,” Spoelstra said. “He got a few that weren’t necessarily in his region and those are playoff rebounds.”
What’s the difference between your run-of-the-mill regular-season rebound and one during the playoffs? Everything, says Shane Battier.
“There are rebounders in this league and then there are guys who can rebound in traffic, and you’d be surprised how difficult it is to rebound in traffic,” Battier said. “Not a lot of guys can do it. Bird can.
“He can take contact, take the bumps and still go up and grab the rebound. And in the playoffs, when possessions are at a premium, those are like gold.”
But Andersen’s contribution goes beyond grabbing those hard-to-get rebounds in the postseason when everyone on the court is fighting for the ball.
“He just brings activity every single night,” Battier said. “And it may not always translate to rebounds, but his activity is just so needed on this team.
“For as athletic as we are and as quick as we are, I wouldn’t characterize us as a high-energy team, so Bird is a high-energy guy. I think he brings another dimension to our team.”
Said James: “He has done something for our team that we didn’t have in the past, so he’s going to be great for us.”
Just don’t expect Andersen to gawk about it.
Dwyane Wade hasn’t played in four games because of soreness in his right knee, and he said Sunday that there isn’t a timetable for his return.
“I just got to make sure I’m healthy,” Wade said. “The most important thing is to be healthy, so when I feel it, I’ll get back on the court. Obviously, I want to play, but I just got to make sure that I’m right.”
Wade spoke with reporters at the Heat’s annual Family Fest event, which raised money for charity. He injured his knee at New Orleans on March 29 and hasn’t played since.