DENVER — The Miami Heat took their time doing research on center Chris Andersen. In the end, his legal situation did not deter them.
Andersen, who signed a 10-day contract Sunday with Miami, had his Larksburg, Colo., home searched last May in a child-exploitation investigation by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Andersen, who with the Denver Nuggets at the time but two months later was waived as part of the NBA’s amnesty rule, has not been charged with any crime but the investigation is ongoing.
Nuggets coach George Karl, who had Andersen in Denver from 2008-12, said he spoke to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra about Andersen’s character. Karl said Nuggets assistant John Welch, who is close to Spoelstra, also talked to the Miami coach about the high-flying player known as Birdman.
“I was very happy about that,” Karl said before Sunday night’s game at the Pepsi Center against Oklahoma City about Andersen signing with the Heat 12 days after he worked out for the team. “I think Bird knows that we’ve given him pretty good endorsements to Miami people. What he’s going through and what happened (with his legal situation), I think will go by the wayside.”
Andersen’s lawyer, Colin Bresee, said last year the family of a young woman from California who had said she was of legal age tried to extort Andersen for money after he spurned her advances following a visit to Colorado. Bresee had said Andersen had received letters and photos showing the young woman “scantily clad.”
“There has been an investigation and I have cooperated fully with the authorities in Denver,” Andersen, who had remained unsigned through the season as a free agent, told reporters Sunday in Miami. “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.”
Andersen was banned from the NBA from January 2006 to March 2008 for failing a drug test. He has said after his return he changed his lifestyle and Karl calls him a “classy” and “responsible” person.
Spoelstra told reporters Sunday the Heat had “done enough research on him,” and that the 6-foot-10 Andersen “fits in well” with the team. Some who know Andersen well agreed.
“He brings a lot of energy,” said Nuggets center Kosta Koufos, who played with Andersen his final 1 ½ years in Denver. “He’s a great shot blocker. He’s a very athletic big man. That’s what Miami needs, so it’s a good fit for them.”
Andersen also is a solid rebounder, which could help a Miami team ranked 30th and last in the NBA in rebounding percentage. The Nuggets know first hand about those board problems. In two games earlier this season, Denver outrebounded the Heat by an average of 17.0, although the Nuggets lost both games.
“He’s very a good rebounder and he’s a very good defender,” said Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari, also a teammate of Andersen’s in his final 1 ½ years in Denver. “They have a lot of offensive talent, so he’s going to help them a lot. One of the best things he does is rebound the ball, so I think he’s going to be a very good asset for them.”
Andersen, 34, has 10-year NBA averages of 5.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots. He averaged 5.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.44 blocks in 32 games last season when Karl barely played him at the end of the campaign because he wanted to go with younger players.
Andersen is still being paid by Denver the $4.53 million left on his contract for this season and the $4.82 million he was due next season. In addition, Andersen will make the pro-rated NBA minimum of $1.35 million for the Heat.
“The guy brings a ton of energy,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who had faced Andersen a number of times in games against Northwest Division rival Denver. “He knows he’s a very high IQ basketball player, knows how to play. Offensive rebounds. Catches. Lobs. Runs the floor. Blocked shots. He gives up his body (with) offensive charges. He’s going to help that team.”
How much remains to be seen. But the Heat will get a good look at him in practice this week and they have home games Wednesday against Toronto and Friday against Detroit, both lesser foes. That could provide an opportunity for the Heat to unleash the Birdman.
“I think Bird can help them,” Karl said. “He’s an energy big guy. I don’t think they’re looking for a 25- to 30-minute player. But I think he can help them and I’m glad he’s going to get another opportunity to get back in the game.”
It’s been a long wait for Andersen. Whenever he might step on the court for Miami, it would mark his first NBA game since March 25, 2012.