Miami has made their latest stop gap attempt at becoming a better team on the interior by bringing in Chris “Birdman” Andersen.
The Heat gave Andersen a 10-day contract on Monday welcoming him to practice and beginning the arduous process of returning to fitness a player who hasn’t played a game since last March. Whether or not Erik Spoelstra can turn Birdman into the force the Heat need in a short period time will prove interesting, but he certainly isn’t going to become it in ten days.
Miami knows this and is already thinking beyond the short term contract as Spoelstra admitted to having to wait at least three to four weeks before they can gauge Andersen and his impact. It’s something the Heat have experience with having signed Eric Dampier and Ronny Turiaf in recent seasons to shore up their presence around the hoop midseason.
Pat Riley could have addressed the team’s ongoing issues in the middle during the offseason, but instead the Heat took on Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to provide more lethal perimeter shooting. Finding minutes for those players while maintaining the amount of time that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh see on an average night has meant career lows in minutes played for Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem.
As the Heat “go small” with James at the power forward position a lot of the time in order to squeeze Shane Battier into the lineup and Chris Bosh playing center, the team’s rebounding and ability to shut down the paint has been called into question.
Anthony and Haslem are players that have been around the Heat longer than James and Bosh, but it seems they have failed to make the adjustment to playing alongside the team’s increased star power and no longer truly fit what the team is doing due to their tendency to remain in the lane instead of clearing out space for James and Wade to drive to the hoop. The result is the defending champions looking for another piece to give them defense and rebounding with Haslem averaging five boards per game and Anthony two per contest.
Dipping into to free agency and digging a player out of obscurity was Miami’s only real option to address their rebounding and front court defensive woes. The team at present possesses no real pieces or draft picks to offer in a trade unless they want to send away one of the prized assets that won them a championship last season, particularly after cutting Terrell Harris and Josh Harrelson from the pay roll last week.
The question Miami fans have to be asking themselves now is does Andersen give them anything that Anthony and Haslem don’t already? Can Birdman really come in and provide that x-factor type presence and see enough minutes to accrue the numbers the Heat need from a big man?
Coming off the bench is certainly nothing new to Andersen the way it is for Anthony or Haslem. In his decade long career, Andersen has started a grand total of ten games and has averaged playing 18 minutes per game. That experience, however, may be just what the Heat are looking for as Andersen knows how to make the most of his minutes. For all his limited time on the floor, Andersen averages over five boards per game and 1.6 blocks for his career.
Miami will be hoping they can return the former Nugget to the form he experienced from 2008-2010 when he averaged more than six rebounds and two blocks per game. For his career, Andersen has averaged just over five points per game, but scoring is really the last thing the Heat need from him. More important is his ability to protect the rim and crash the glass, but where Spoelstra will find the minutes for him is another story.
In truth, having to surrender minutes is not exactly a fair deal to Haslem who has endured a number of obstacles over his ten year career while remaining a faithful servant of the Miami Heat. Nonetheless, Andersen is settling in and has already impressed Spoelstra with his understanding on the defensive side of the ball.
Is Andersen going to be the player that the Heat need to get them back to playing their best basketball and make them able to compete with the stronger front courts of this league as they head into the final months of the season? Probably not, but that’s why he’s on a 10-day contract for now and at best a veterans minimum deal til the end of the season later. It’s January, we know who the Miami Heat are and what the preferred personnel for this team is. It doesn’t include a seven footer clogging the lane, but it’s one of the best lineups in the league on a good night. Until this summer at least, the question Heat fans need to ponder is can the team win it all again as the worst rebounding team in the league? When it’s all said and done, that’s exactly what they’ll be whether Birdman ever gets off the ground or not.