In one of the more underrated moves of the summer, fan favorite Chris Andersen, AKA the "Birdman", spurned the siren song of LeBron James, and elected to remain with the team who saved his basketball career.
While it is relatively well known around the circles of basketball enthusiasts, casual fans might not no that just a few short years ago Chris Andersen's basketball career was at a standstill. To put it briefly, Andersen was a victim of a catfishing scheme. In May of 2012 Andersen's house was searched as part of an investigation by the ICACU (Internet Crimes Against Children unit). Following the search, Andersen was waived by the Denver Nuggets, despite being innocent.
Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim goes into great deal regarding the case, explaining that Andersen was in a relationship with a woman from California who lied about her age to him initially. During this time a woman from Canada had stolen Chris' identity and began making explicit demands. The California local felt threatened and spoke to authorities leading to an investigation where the Canadian woman was found guilty.
Following this debacle, the Miami Heat - eager for a serviceable big man - elected to sign Chris and helped him win his first championship. Andersen's energy off the bench has been a crucial part of Miami's success and he is obviously thankful to the franchise for giving him another chance, as made evident by his decision to stay. In a recent interview with the Sun-Sentinel, Andersen uses the term loyalty to express his decision to remain in South Beach saying:
"It was definitely the loyalty from the fans and from the team," said the Texas native who signed a two-year, $10.3 million contract with the Heat last month. "That had a big part of it. And it's matter of me ending my career in a place that I'd be happy at and am familiar with."
Having turned 36 on July 7, Andersen said there should be no concerns about his health moving forward, having arrived at Saturday's event alongside personal trainer Tony Falce.
"I'm healthy," he said. "Absolutely, I'm healthy."
While there is obviously no doubt that Heat fans are happy with his decision, many should wonder how he'll perform this coming season in the new system, especially after a lackluster postseason riddled by injury. Last season Birdman averaged a respectable stat line of 6.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Birdman started to come alive in the latter half of the season before suffering a thigh contusion that limited him in the playoffs. From that moment on, despite his best efforts he wasn't able to regain the explosion that generally allowed him to bring momentum off of the bench. Still he was resilient, fighting through injury to average 5.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in the postseason.
As we approach training camp I can't help, but think that Birdman will be presented a larger role. Once again, Miami is lacking size at center and thus we must depend on Birdman's tenacity and shot blocking ability. Regardless of their big man woes, the Heat have also lost a lot of offensive production with LeBron's absence, thus offering a chance for Andersen to do more on the scoring end even if that requires him to clean up the glass.
If Birdman is able to remain healthy he can be extreme asset to the new-look Miami Heat. Birdman is the ideal teammate he is phenomenal motivator, and extremely athletic, but also willing to do grunt work in order to succeed. Birdman's tenacity is what separates him from other forward/centers and allows him to be a menace to all who oppose him. I have no doubt that Birdman will be a force this season. It's extremely evident that Birdman believes in the Heat organization, and his devotion to the team is definitely recognized.