Tag Archives: Chris Andersen

Opportunity Thy Name Is Birdman

Chris Andersen got a shot. Despite the legal trouble that preceded this season, despite the lack of general interest, someone gave him a chance. He signed a minimum deal with a playoff team, working his way into a rotation, injecting athleticism, enthusiasm and flamboyance into a front line that needed him. His strong form carried into the playoffs, where he has made a ridiculous percentage of his carefully managed shots, blocked everything in sight, and made the Conference Finals behind a star small forward.

This is the story of Birdman and the 2012-13 Heat, a contender made even more contendery off an opportunistic waiver wire pickup. But if the story sounds strikingly familiar, it may be because we have seen it before.

Coming off a 2 year drug suspension and a poor, uneventful 5 game post-reinstatement stint with the Hornets, Andersen was something of scorched ground in the summer of 2008. He nonetheless returned to the team that kickstarted his NBA career as the Carmelo Anthony/Allen Iverson (soon-to-be-Chauncey-Billups) Nuggets signed him to a minimum deal, and excelled in his role off the bench for the best team the Nuggets have fielded in the George Karl era. The parallels to this year were striking – people couldn’t understand where this guy had come from, how the Nuggets are getting him for the minimum, how big his impact was on a huge run. He even knocked a Conference Finals game out of the park.

Of course, said performance was parlayed into a 5 year deal that was either too long, too expensive, or just too optimistic. As the makeup of the Nuggets changed for completely different reasons, JaVale McGee took away his shot blocking, hyperathletic, questionable-sanity big man spot. That and an odd, charge-less investigation eventually led to him being amnestied. He was then given a 10 day contract from the Heat during their annual big man tryout tour; they have lost 4 times in the 52 games since.

The natural reaction when a contender finds a cheap contributor lying around is one of inevitability, a feeble acknowledgement of the rich-getting-richer proposition that has no solution and fuels all aspects of life. The 2009 Lakers stumbling into Trevor Ariza in a Brian Cook salary dump, or the 2008 Celtics giving the P.J. Brown resuscitation project one last go, or whatever it was that came into Peja Stojakovic for the 2011 Mavs.

Andersen’s situation was different. He was not buried in the rough, nor off-the-radar. Rather, he was a known quantity who was not worth the trouble. 34 years old, an unknown legal situation, world-renowned oddball, he was largely absent from the Nuggets last season, seemingly by the organization’s own choice. He’s just ostentatious enough to create controversy, and just slightly too anonymous to compensate for it by winning a press conference. Not signing Chris Andersen was a pretty easy move to explain; at least, it was, until he got his sliver and burst through it. Again.

Game 1 against the Pacers was a perfect extension of that. Not even a Birdman Optimization Engine could come up with a better Chris Andersen game. 16 points on 7 of 7 shooting is pretty much inherently perfect, but the nature of those shots were well-fitting of a Chris Andersen stencil. A dunk off a LeBron drive, a layup trailing Wade in transition – much like in January, whenever Miami glanced his way, Birdman was conveniently available.

NBA stars are memorable by sheer existence, but role players tend to only be as memorable as they were prevalent on national television, whether via market or success. The Birdman moniker and the colorful skin would have entrenched him in our minds anyway, but there is still something comforting about the idea that the two seasons that gave us the most Playoff Chris Andersen were born from off-court situations that fit perfectly with his on court persona of opportunism.

That may be why his 2009-2012 seasons with Denver retroactively feel like down years, even though his numbers were pretty much the same as they were before the 5 year deal (though they did take a dip in 2009-2010). You can’t have Birdman on an actual contract getting actual chunks of your salary cap, just like you can’t have him anchor your defense or be an active part of an offensive play – sooner rather than later, you end up focusing on everything that he can’t do. The smarter, funner thing to do is to watch everything else that goes on and be pleasantly surprised when he produces on the minimum or flies in for a dunk, and grin as he leaves with a flap of the wings.

Small Sample Size Theater: Chris Andersen

Small Sample Size

Chris Andersen is looked at as an ugly duckling of sorts from the outside (the guy who doesn’t fit in with the graceful athletes that surround him), but he has slowly become a vital part of the Miami attack and will be counted on as the team prepares to chase a second consecutive title.

This week we saw the Birdman not only rebound and defend, but also attack the rim when presented the opportunity. He shot a LeBron James like 63.2% from the field and even managed to double his career 3PM total by knocking down not one but two open looks from distance.

Below is a chart diagramming how often the Heat (in terms of plus/minus) have been better when Andersen is on the court than when he is not this month. For a team loaded with star power, the fact that they have only once had more success with Andersen on the pine speaks volumes for the impact of the energy he brings with him every time he flaps his finds or dives into the stands.

 Andersen2

We touched on his aggression when it comes to scoring, but his physical play has the greatest lasting impact on the game. He attempted 25 free throws over the last four games, which means he is drawing fouls on the one starter that opponents have a talent edge in. He connected on 17 freebies this week, nearly matching his March total (22) and finally turning his effort directly into points.

Last but not least, Andersen’s impact (both on and off the court) increases when the Heat play in Miami, something they will be doing a lot as the number one overall seed. He scores 15.6% more points at home and shoots nearly 63% from the field (as opposed to 51.7% on the road.  This week was no different as he connected on 71.4% of his shots in front of the raucous Heat faithful and 40% when he was the enemy.

He is much more than a side show with colorful tattoos and a Mohawk. He is a productive reserve version of Dennis Rodman: not a requirement to win a title, but another advantage that other teams simply have a hard time answering. He is shooting 72.7% against the New York and Indiana, teams Miami could face for a trip to the finals (if seeding holds).

NBA Playoffs Nuggets-Jazz Game 3 Recap: Fashion Shows, Cat Fights and Just Doing You Lose Out To A Full Ensemble Cast

One of the drawbacks of making blogging your living is that you do a lot of writing at the end of most nights.

For some people that’s not a bad thing at all. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing for me. At least it wasn’t until my fiancé discovered the Real Housewives of (Fill In The Blank) television series on Bravo. Now, once a week I finish my night of watching basketball games only to turn the remote over to my lady as she takes her turn with the TiVo. The thing that turns on almost immediately is The Real Housewives of New York or The Real Housewives of Orange County or The Real Housewives of Odessa or whatever the hell the latest one is.

From watching this TV programming gem while I commence my nightly writing, I’ve found that I understand teams like the Denver Nuggets a lot better than I ever would have. While basketball is about skill and athleticism and a basic understanding of how the game is and should be played there is also a very human element to the NBA that has to be recognized. We’ve seen it in many forms. We’ve seen Maurice Cheeks sidle up to a young lady who has forgotten the words to our national anthem and help walk her through the rest of the song. We’ve also watched Stephen Jackson go chasing after Ron Artest into the Pistons’ stands to not stop him from committing a crime but to make sure he commits it correctly.

The personalities and the human aspect of life matter just as much in basketball as they do in the crappy television world of housewives in front of a camera filming “reality.” When you put five egotistical, power-hungry, driven women in front of a camera and ask them to ham it up a bit for their audience, you’re going to come across some problems. They’re going to get catty and start to come apart at the seams, much like their botched plastic surgery. They can’t help themselves and once it gets to that point of complete unraveling, there is no way for them to recover and get back to the decency or somewhat respectful nature that got them to this point in their “careers.”

This same pattern of psyche was one of the main reasons I didn’t trust the Denver Nuggets to take care of business four times in a seven-game series against a Utah Jazz team that I’ve tried not to fall in love with. The Denver Nuggets have a bunch of strong personalities.

Carmelo Anthony is the star of the show who will have the crap promoted out of him during the duration of this show. Chauncey Billups is the older person that could just as easily justify the same attention for himself that Melo is getting if he were just a bit sexier. JR Smith is the crazy one that is so unpredictable that you almost have to sit on the edge of your seat when he’s on the court or at a fashion show. Kenyon Martin is the old, hard persona that could be the nicest person in the world or the most conniving with he feels he’s been crossed. And Chris Andersen is just the kooky, free spirit who will wow you with the accessories (mustache, hair, tattoos) as much as with his ability to completely ruin any given show.

When things are going extremely well, it’s a hype machine that sells advertising and makes you crave the after show in which the brilliance and step-by-step entertainment of the show is explained with everybody sitting around, enjoying a cocktail or two. But when things fall apart, you can almost tell that nothing is going to fix the tailspin that has begun.

When the Jazz took control of Game Two and escaped from Denver with a three-point victory, the Nuggets appeared to be shell-shocked. Not only were they the Denver Nuggets but they were also facing a Jazz team that was without two of their core players. And yet, they couldn’t hold serve at home and now had to go into a hostile environment without the advantage of a 2-0 series lead.

The first quarter of Game Three between these two teams was complete smoke and mirrors. The Jazz played horribly enough to be down 15 points after the first 12 minutes while the Nuggets used free throws and a ton of rebounds to counter a horrible shooting quarter by everybody not named Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. By the time the Jazz got settled in, the Nuggets were in no position to survive on lucky bounces and poor execution.

The Jazz went old school with their offense by running a ton of set plays and executing them to near perfection. The Nuggets on the other hand tried to play one-on-one despite the fact that there were 10 guys on the floor. The Jazz ran an offense while the Nuggets players isolated themselves on an island.

This affinity for isolation was one of the things that worried me coming into this series. The Nuggets have the players that can absolutely destroy their opponents one-on-one. Chauncey Billups is able to veteranize most opponents into scoring opportunities for himself. JR Smith is able to go dumb with hot shooting and oozing bravado. Nene can devour opposing centers with a single move towards the basket. And Carmelo Anthony doesn’t have Fans From Utah cheering him on because he’s so good at making the extra pass. He makes the money by throwing an array of offensive ninja stars at his opponents once he faces up.

But throw a little controversy and a bunch of Utah rebounds, free throws and scoring runs at this Denver team and they don’t seem to know how to come back as a team. They’re my individuals with no conceptual understanding of a team comeback. I don’t think it’s a selfish thing either. It’s just not something that Adrian Dantley can tie together with these guys.

The Jazz completely dominated the second half both basketball-wise and with mental toughness. They had four separate runs of 8-0, 8-0, 7-0 and 9-0 over a period of 15 minutes and 22 seconds of game clock. They outrebounded the Nuggets 24-15 while holding them to under 40% from the field. The Jazz utilized every weapon and play in their arsenal to take a 2-1 series lead while the Nuggets just sat around waiting for someone else to step up and carry the show.

In the crucial third quarter, the Denver Nuggets had one assist in the entire 12 minutes of play. Everyone tried to be the individual star of the show and didn’t realize they were part of an ensemble that was the reason for the entire show. It was this Real Housewives mentality that kept them from competing in this game.

This Denver team has been missing something all season long. For a while, I thought it was just another big man to bang with the big title contenders. But it looks to be much deeper than that. They’re missing a glue guy. Maybe that glue guy is actually George Karl or maybe it was Linas Kleiza. Whomever it was, you’ve now comprised a team of a bunch of characters and personalities that seem more worried about book deals, product sponsorships and spin-off programming when you really need a group of people who should be worried about being picked up for another season.