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Miami Heat’s Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen shaping up to fit in

Chris Andersen showed up in Miami for his workout with Pat Riley looking relatively skinny for a 34-year-old athlete who had been idle for about nine months. How did he do it? Plenty of shrimp fried-rice.

His mother-in-law’s fried rice, to be specific.

“My old lady’s mom, she cooks some really good fried rice, so that helped keep the weight down a lot,” Andersen said. “I think that was a big key to trying to stay trim and get ready to play basketball.”

Covered in colorful tattoos from the neck down, it’s hard to tell when Andersen is being serious or just joking. The fried rice comment was a joke, presumably, but you never know with Andersen, the veteran center who calls himself “Birdman” and has an artful tattoo that reads “Free Bird” across his neck.

It doesn’t help that Andersen’s preferred delivery of comedy is deadpan humor.

“You want me to lie to you or tell you the truth,” Andersen said when asked about his physical conditioning.

Look past the tats and the carefree personality, however, and you’ll find a basketball player considered to be one of the most tenacious and hardworking in the game. Andersen’s workman-like approach made him a fan favorite in Denver and that reputation has helped him land a gig with the defending champions.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said on Monday that Denver coach George Karl, more than one Nuggets assistant and the Nuggets front office gave Andersen a strong endorsement when the Heat called about his past.

Andersen’s past — on and off the court — apparently is just that, in the past. In many respects, that’s a good thing. Andersen was once suspended from the league for an extended period for drug use. But the physical presence Andersen used in coming off the bench for the Nuggets is also dormant.

While he remained trim after being waived by the Nuggets, Andersen currently is not in basketball shape. He says it’s going to take time for him to fly up and down the court like he once did.

Andersen estimated on Monday that his physical conditioning is about 25 percent away from where it needs to be.

“But, you know, after a long nine months, I’m back at it and it’s fun to get out here and just give it everything I got and just get out there and compete,” Andersen said. “It’ll come easy to me.”

Andersen is on a 10-day contract, but if everything goes according to plan he’ll be with the Heat for the remainder of the season. Spoelstra gave every indication on Monday that he plans on keeping Andersen around. The Heat knows Andersen is not in proper shape and is willing to be patient.

“He has a lean, live body, so I think in the next three or four weeks you’ll see that change even more,” Spoelstra said. “He’ll get in better shape as the weeks go by. We have plenty of time left in the season.

“This is an early acquisition. Sometimes we’ve made our acquisition a little later, so we feel very comfortable with the timeline right now. And since he kept his weight and body fat down, he’s pretty close to his target levels already just because he keeps himself naturally somewhat fit, physically fit even if it’s not basketball fit. That helps.”

Andersen says he plans on working twice a day with trainers until he regains stamina and strength in his legs. He participated in a five-on-five scrimmage on Monday, so he’s already making progress.

Andersen could make his Heat debut on Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena against the Toronto Raptors but his minutes likely will be limited until regains his old form. The biggest concern right now is preventing injury. The Heat doesn’t want Andersen to over do it.

“He’s good,” Dwyane Wade said. “I just don’t want him to try to get into shape in two days, because he works so hard and he’s a competitor. But he’s looking good and I think he’s going to fit right in with our offensive scheme and what we do. Obviously it’s going to take him a little while to get totally in comfortable, but he can make an impact immediately.”

This and that

Wade sat out practice on Monday with a sore toe but said he will practice on Tuesday and play in Wednesday’s game. He had some problems with his feet last season and said the current soreness could be related. Wade is confident it’s nothing to worry about.

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