Ten games into the season and there have been some fairly good surprises, but also some duds for the Denver Nuggets. And one of the biggest duds has been the fan favorite Chris ‘The Birdman’ Andersen.
The 33-year-old reserve big man has struggled to bring the same energy that used to get the Pepsi Center fired up. His highlight reel dunks and blocked shots have become rather rare this season and his biggest struggles have actually been on the defensive side of the ball – which used to be his biggest strength.
Andersen still bites on pump fakes and tends to seek out shots to reject instead of playing smart one-on-one defense. His defensive play
struggles was pretty apparent in the short time he played in Saturday’s loss to San Antonio.
Late in the first half the Nuggets just cut the Spurs lead to nine in the first quarter and the 6-foot-9 Danilo Gallinari was defending the much shorter Tony Parker, which usually would be a mismatch but Gallinari was able to move his feet and force Parker into what should have been a tough shot. However, Andersen made a rather questionable decision and left Tiago Splitter to block Parker’s shot, which would already be errant. But in turn Parker found the open Splitter and the Spurs pushed their lead to 12 going into the second quarter. A minute into the second quarter and Andersen was back on the bench for the rest of these games.
Andersen made another questionable mistake in a preseason game when he was called for offensive goaltending canceling out a 3-point play for Kosta Koufos.
These have been common occurrences with Andersen throughout his time with the Nuggets, but in the past it seemed his positive plays canceled out his negatives. That is not the case anymore.
Andersen’s struggles have found him on the bench much more frequently now. He is averaging only 11.6 minutes a game and has only has had six blocks in 10 games and is fourth on the team in blocked shots.
The veteran big man did play well in the Nuggets victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, scoring 12 points and grabbing nine rebounds. He also did well in the Nuggets blowout victory over the Sacramento Kings. Scoring eight points, getting seven rebounds and blocking three shots.
But outside of those two games, Andersen hasn’t scored more than four points and has averaged less than three rebounds a contest. In the Nuggets previous three games, two of which were losses, Andersen has averaged only five minutes and one point.
So the question remains, what are the Nuggets going to do with the errant big man? In years pass, Karl has shown the confidence in Andersen and has been patient in letting the big man work through his issues. He knew that despite some bonehead plays, Andersen was a valuable role for the Nuggets. And in the past the Nuggets didn’t really have any other options off the bench, but that is different now. Koufos has proven he deserves minutes and in time Karl may be willing to give rookie phenom Kenneth Faried minutes.
If that is the case, Andersen may actually find himself out of a job sooner rather than later. He is currently one of the highest paid players on the Nuggets roster and is due to make nearly $13.6 million over the next three years. And with how well Al Harrington is playing, Denver may instead opt to use the amnesty clause on Andersen. Freeing themselves of his three-year contract, which would pay him nearly $5 million when he is 35 years old.