In terms of percentages, and not misleading raw statistics, the Miami Heat are the worst offensive rebounding team in the NBA, and just 24th out of 30 teams when it comes to defensive rebounding. This hasn’t hurt the team too dearly — the group is on pace for a 56-win season, it owns the best record in the East, and the team is third in offensive efficiency and 12th in defensive efficiency, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Not bad for a squad that is going with a small-ball attack, just counting down the days until it can use it to take down the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs or Los Angeles Clippers in June.
Getting to that point, though, may be an issue. The Heat still need to retain the top spot in the conference to hold home-court advantage in all three Eastern playoff rounds, and the fact that the Heat have been destroyed by the second-seeded New York Knicks in two 20-point defeats isn’t lost on the team’s front office. Looking at their most glaring need, Miami has decided to go for one of the NBA’s most colorful players — former Denver Nuggets banger Chris Andersen, who was signed to a 10-day contract on Sunday.
Andersen, in his typical style, was confident in his ability to help:
"That ain't gonna keep the Birdman from flyin' and getting in there and getting some rebounds and bangin' and playin' hard," Andersen said. "As you can see, I'm pretty much accustomed to pain. But it ain't gonna stop me from coming out here and assisting these champions and trying to help them win another championship."
We enjoy Chris dropping the letter “g” just about every other word that deserved it, because we’re guessing the 34-year old is a big Jack London fan.
What’s most important is where Andersen fits. Nuggets coach George Karl was quoted in the above Associated Press story as telling reporters that the Nuggets have “given him very good endorsements.” This is warming, considering Andersen was waived by the Nuggets last summer under dubious circumstances.
For one, Denver probably didn’t need Andersen’s services anymore. The Nuggets have a litany of athletic front court players, and keeping Andersen’s contract on the books would have likely forced the Nuggets into the luxury tax in the deal’s final year next season. It wouldn’t create the same penalty this year, but that was no matter what with Kenneth Faried’s emergence and the hope that JaVale McGee continues to flourish in a better environment.
The dodgiest part was an investigation that Andersen had to work through last spring that associated him with the black mark of child pornography. Soon after news of the investigation became known, however, Andersen’s representatives released information that led most of us to believe that he was part of an extortion plot.
Eight months later it appears that there may be no smoke, in this instance, and no fire. From the AP:
"There has been an investigation and I have cooperated fully with the authorities in Denver," Andersen said. "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." […]
Spoelstra did not address Andersen's off-court questions specifically, though insisted that Miami has no qualms about bringing him into the mix.
"We've done enough research on him. We feel he fits in very well," Spoelstra said.
With that out of the way, hopefully permanently, we can now move on to trying to figure out where Andersen helps as the Heat attempt to defend their title. The 10-day designation doesn’t allow a whole lot of time for Birdman to find his way, but all the signs point to a relationship that could work.
Chris Bosh starts at center for the Heat, and possibly as a reflection of that move to the pivot or because of other on-court influences, he is averaging a career low in rebounding rate — the amount of rebounds he brings in compared to what is available when he’s on the floor, a stat that has decreased in three straight seasons since he joined Miami. His percentage ranks him in the lower reaches of NBA centers, but it’s not that far off from that of Memphis’ Marc Gasol, a player that some have rightfully trumpeted as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Bosh is a guy who boxes out, especially after moving to help defensively at a position he’s new to, while hoping some of Miami’s better all-around players can help secure the defensive carom while he’s holding others back. It hasn’t worked, especially paired with a rebounding zero in Shane Battier. Even stranger than Bosh’s frustrations are those of Udonis Haslem — the Heat’s all-time leading rebounder has also seen his rebounding rate dip for the third straight season. The Heat actually rebound worse with him on the floor than off.
Something’s going on with the setup, and the weirdness behind this three-star system that can produce greatness in May and June but also leave glaring holes in the winter months. And this is where Andersen can help.
Even last year, Andersen was rebounding at a very high rate while also continuing his assault on the offensive glass. Even better, he acts as a shot-blocker in ways that Bosh and Haslem, position defenders at best these days, do not. Statistically, he’s a nice upgrade from Heat center Joel Anthony — a player who also blocks shots at a high per-minute rate but absolutely does not rebound.
Anthony plays defense, though. Very, very good defense. Andersen, despite all those blocks and despite even leading the NBA in block percentage (same set-up as rebounding rate) in 2010, plays terrible defense. He is often out of step in ways that can’t be blamed on attempting to overreach for rejections.
What he can provide, though, is options. For some reason, several different lineups featuring Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh haven’t worked all that effectively overall this year, in spite of the eye test that tells you that these smart, talented, and willing players should be able to ham-and-egg it with LeBron James’ help and tilt games in Miami’s favor. Adding an offensive rebounder and shot-blocker along the lines of Andersen, for various rotation calls and with the big brain of coach Erik Spoelstra sorting it all out? This could help.
Or, it could be over in 10 days. Such is NBA chemistry, and the fact that a player in his mid-30s that hasn’t played significant minutes in nine months. Cobwebs, no matter how spiky your hair is, are hard to shake.
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