Andersen rejuvenated after painful 2009-10 season
Birdman eager for return to form after knee surgery
For most of the 2009-10 season, Chris Andersen was Birdman in name alone.
Playing on a sore right knee, the normally high-flying Nuggets forward was flight-restricted. His explosiveness would come and go, inhibiting the consistency in the two biggest strengths of his game – rebounding and shot-blocking.
The pain in his knee was so bad after some games that he used only his left foot to operate the accelerator and brake pedal during the half-hour drive home to Larkspur.
Two weeks removed from surgery to repair a torn patella tendon, Andersen is mentally rejuvenated, and he had a message for anyone wondering about his high-energy, shot-swatting, glass-cleaning alter ego.
“I’m Birdman again,” he said while doing some rehab work in the Nuggets training room Tuesday.
After an inspiring return to the NBA in 2008-09, Andersen averaged 5.9 points, a career-high 6.4 rebounds and 1.88 blocked shots in 2009-10. He missed only six games due to injury but was never 100 percent healthy after exeriencing soreness in his knee during training camp.
“I wasn’t able to do the things that I was wanting to do and to mirror what happened (in 2008-09),” Andersen said. “That’s what I was shooting for, but it’s tough when you have an injury like that. It limits me to how many times I can go try to block a shot and how high I can get. There were a lot of times it was just right on the tip of my fingers and I couldn’t get it.”
Knowing the Nuggets were limited in the frontcourt, Andersen – one of Denver’s most popular players – pushed through the pain.
“I wasn’t obligated just because people were coming out to see me. I was wanting to win,” he said. “My knee hurt, but it didn’t hurt enough for me to want to sit out.”
Andersen’s teammates appreciated the effort.
“You just know that he’s a warrior and he’s going to give you whatever he has,” point guard Chauncey Billups said. “He didn’t have some of his explosiveness and we all knew it was due to injury. It was kind of that way for him all year. He had some flashes, but he was never really able to turn that corner like he usually does.”
Despite tearing his patella tendon in Game 2 of Denver’s first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz, Andersen played each of the final four games. He had surgery on May 25 and already is looking forward to 2010-11.
“I wanted to get it fixed early in the summer so that when it is time to play in November, I can start making my way back and being a threat again,” he said. “I’m going to block some more shots. I want to move up the ladder on that Nuggets all-time block list.”
With 520 blocked shots in a Denver uniform, Andersen is eighth on the franchise list but is within range of passing Raef LaFrentz (556), Antonio McDyess (604), Alex English (622) and Bobby Jones (625) next season.
Before chasing more milestones, Andersen will continue his rehab and his community work. He was a spokesman for the Denver Rescue Mission’s April Food Month campaign that raised more than $28,000 in online donations, and he plans to make appearances at his basketball camp that starts June 21.
“It’s all about community – give back to the people that are in need,” Andersen said.
In that respect, Birdman never really left.
Contact Aaron J. Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org