Bring Back the Birdman!

I’ll say it outright: I really, really hope Chris Andersen is in a Hornets jersey again by the end of February. Here’s a quick breakdown of why we need him, and what the opposition might be:

Hopefully the Birdman’s appeals-process is court-free.

The first hurdle is obvious- is he clean? Almost two years ago to the day, Andersen was suspended for an unspecified drug violation (I may be wrong here, but I always thought it was something more like recreational drugs rather than performance enhancers). Ironically, guess who Andersen’s last game was against? That’s right, the San Antonio Spurs, who won by 26 points. Fast forward exactly two years… and Andersen will file his appeal right after a 24 point Hornet win over those same Spurs.

That brings me to the next point, the appeal itself. Right now, all indications are that the appeal’s success (or lack thereof) will be based solely on how clean Andersen has been these last two years, and more than that, how much he has learned from this experience. Right now, the more I read, the more I feel his appeal will be successful. In his own words, he hasn’t taken drugs or even a single drink since his suspension. Adding some validity to those words is the friendship he struck with Kevin Garnett over the course of last summer while he worked out in Vegas. He’s slowly been working his way back into the NBA lights, attending at least one Hornets game this year, as well as a few Nuggets games.

Couple all those things with the fact that the last player reinstatement appeal (Roy Tarpley in ’03) turned into a messy legal battle, and it’s easy to see that the NBA would probably like to avoid more controversy if Andersen’s papers all clear. Not only that, Andersen has been working out diligently in Vegas, something Tarpley (who was rejected) never did. So overall, I would be surprised if Andersen’s appeal somehow failed.

Now part two: would he actually help us or be a detriment? The biggest argument against his acquisition is obvious: don’t fix it if it ain’t broke. At 31-12 New O is atop the ridiculously strong Western Conference; why potentially mess it up by bringing in a guy who was just suspended for 2 years? Simple. Go look at our February schedule. @Utah, @Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, @San Antonio, Phoenix, Utah. Then go look at our March schedule. @Houston, San Antonio, Lakers, @Detroit, Houston, Boston, @Boston. Not impressed yet? 10 of our last 14 games are on the road. As hot as our bench has been recently (and other than Pargo, it hasn’t actually been very hot), front court depth is a necessity if this team is going to wrap up a top seed out West.

Now, on to the stats. Pretty much every media outlet out there is going to jump on the “he’s an energy guy” angle, which I find to be a lame excuse for not doing any real analysis. Where does his energy show up statistically is the real question. The answer is two-fold- rebounding and defense. As far as rebounding goes, he posted a 12.4% OREB rate in his last year with New Orleans. To give you a sense of perspective that’s about 150% times that of David West, and just shy of Tyson Chandler’s OREB rate. And Tyson Chandler leads the freakin’ league in offensive rebounding with a 14.3% rate this year. Guess what Andersen’s career best rate was? 15.4 (!!!) during his rookie year. Is he going to reach those numbers again? Of course not. But given that our current options are Armstrong (9.7%) and Ely (4.1%), Andersen would be an enormous upgrade on the glass.

Defense has been the Hornets’ calling card this season, but pretty much everyone acknowledges that there’s a significant dropoff between the starters and second unit. There’s nobody on the bench that can even come close to matching the help defense West and Chandler provide inside; Melvin Ely and Hilton Armstrong combine to average 1.0 blocks a contest. Andersen has averaged almost 1.5 blocks a game for his career, playing in just reserve roles (16.1 mpg). Not only that, Andersen posted Defensive Ratings of 97 and 96 while with Denver, which are both insanely good. As a point of reference, Ben Wallace’s career average DRTG is 94 (the lower the better).

His past teammates have all been extremely positive in their comments about him; his drug-taking past seems in no way to have interfered with his interactions with fellow teammates. Of course the big question here is, how will Byron Scott react to all this? After all, he’s going to have to pull the trigger on the whole thing, one would assume. The Birdman would come relatively cheap (a prorated version of his old contract would be in order). I’ve said before that the next piece to the Hornets’ championship puzzle is obviously the bench, and Andersen would be a huge (and very underrated) step towards that.

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One Response

  1. Good stuff, do you know how long we get to sign him? I heard about there being some sort of time limit after he’s reinstated. Oh, and also, it was cocaine he tested positive for.

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