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Former Nuggets big man Chris Andersen returns a champion

Birdman visits Pepsi Center for first time with Miami but sits with sore back

Former Nuggets big man Chris Andersen helped the Miami Heat win their second NBA title last spring.
Bart Young/NBAE/Getty Images

The return of Birdman was special but subdued.

Back at Pepsi Center for the first time since joining the Miami Heat last January, former Nuggets forward Chris Andersen didn’t play Monday night as Denver faced the two-time defending champs.

Andersen missed his third straight game with a sore back.

“I would love to play in this game,” Andersen said. “Coming back here is a special moment. It’s a team that made a big commitment to my career. I want nothing more than to beat my old team, but I’ve got bigger fish to fry, and that’s trying to win a championship.”

Andersen, 35, joined the Nuggets as an undrafted free agent in 2001. He spent three seasons in Denver before signing as a free agent with New Orleans in 2004 and returned to the Nuggets again as a free agent in 2008.

Andersen played a key role off the bench as the Nuggets advanced to the 2009 Western Conference finals. Denver fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

“It wasn’t meant to be at that time,” he said.

The Nuggets waived Andersen after the 2011-12 season and he went unsigned until earning a full-time roster spot with the Heat following two 10-day contracts.

Andersen averaged 4.9 points and 4.1 rebounds in 42 games with Miami and was a big part of the rotation as the Heat won their second consecutive NBA title.

“How many rises did I have (in my career)?” he said with a smile. “I’m going to be the comeback king.”