MIAMI—Chris Andersen wore a stars-and-stripes headband Sunday morning, showed off the colorful array of tattoos that stretch from his neck to his ankles and virtually all spots in between, and spoke about himself in the third person.
He’s got 10 days to make an impression on the Miami Heat.
Seems like he’s already off to a good start.
The veteran forward-center signed a 10-day deal with the Heat on Sunday and worked out with his new club for the first time. For a team that’s looking for rebounding help, Andersen—who hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since playing with Denver last March—is hoping that he will be the answer.
“This opportunity and being with the defending champs, it’s a dream come true,” Andersen said. “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, you know, the usual that a Birdman does and what Birdman brings.”
Birdman is the nickname he’s had for years.
The Heat are more than a little curious to find out if he can still fly.
“Typically, you’re not able to get a player of his caliber at this time of year,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But three years ago he was the best in the game coming off the bench at his position, as a shotblocker and a rebounder. We’ve always liked him. We had him in our camp a long time ago, when he was just coming up in this league, pre-tattoo, and we liked him back then. Ever since then we’ve searched for ways to get him back.”
The Heat worked Andersen—who has averaged 5.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in 482 NBA games—out earlier this month, around the time they were starting a six-game road swing. They didn’t sign him immediately, but Andersen was doing two-a-day sessions in Miami while the Heat were gone and in essence scouting the way they played from studying their games closely during the trip.
If all goes well, Andersen is expected to make his Heat debut on Wednesday when Miami hosts Toronto.
“We love guys with chips who feel like they’ve got something to prove for a lot of teams not giving them an opportunity,” Heat forward LeBron James said. “Hopefully he plays with that type of intensity.”
Andersen’s past—and in some respects, his present—is dotted by off-court issues.
He was barred from the NBA for just over two years because of substance-abuse issues, and had his home in Colorado searched last May as part of an investigation into what was described as Internet-related crimes against children. He was excused from team activities by Denver to deal with the investigation, and the Nuggets waived him through the amnesty clause in July.
“There has been an investigation and I have cooperated fully with the authorities in Denver,” Andersen said. “I am not the target of the investigation and no arrests have been made and no charges have been filed against me. I’m grateful for this opportunity that the Miami Heat has given me.”
Spoelstra did not address Andersen’s off-court questions specifically, though insisted that Miami has no qualms about bringing him into the mix.
“We’ve done enough research on him. We feel he fits in very well,” Spoelstra said.
And yes, Heat president Pat Riley’s preference for players to not wear headbands—a policy that has been relaxed a bit in recent years—will not apply to Andersen.
He asked for permission, and apparently got it in a mildly comical manner.
“I was told about the code of conduct around here,” Andersen said. “I went into Pat Riley’s office and I asked him if it was cool if I could wear my headband, because I do a sweat a lot. And he was like, yeah, because he didn’t want me perspiring on his nice floor.”
No, what Riley wants is for him to rebound on his nice floor.
Rebounding has been a major question for the Heat in recent weeks, even while the team has held on to the top spot in the Eastern Conference race. So the team made roughly 21 feet worth of moves on Sunday, signing both Andersen and Jarvis Varnado to 10-day deals—it’s Varnado’s second such contract with Miami—and recalling another big man, Dexter Pittman from the NBA Development League team in Sioux Falls.
Miami entered Sunday ranked 29th in the 30-team NBA in rebounds per game.
“I’m here to help assist in any kind of rebounding or defense that I can provide to an already outstanding team who are defending champions,” Andersen said. “And I’m just ecstatic to be here and I’m ready to get back to blockin’ and rollin’.”
Andersen said he had his left knee scoped in August, but has been able to work out in Texas and Colorado while waiting for an NBA team to call. He didn’t reveal how good the knee feels now, though pointed to his tattoos as evidence that he’s got at least some level of pain tolerance.
“That ain’t gonna keep the Birdman from flyin’ and getting in there and getting some rebounds and bangin’ and playin’ hard,” Andersen said. “As you can see, I’m pretty much accustomed to pain. But it ain’t gonna stop me from coming out here and assisting these champions and trying to help them win another championship.”