Birdman making progress in recovery from knee surgery

Nuggets forward optimistic about making a healthy return

Three months ago, the simple task of raising his right leg a few inches off the training table was a wince-inducing exercise for Chris Andersen.

As training camp approaches, the high-flying forward known as Birdman is back on the court doing light shooting drills and in the weight room improving the strength in his knee in anticipation of making a pain-free impact for the Nuggets in 2010-11.

“It’s going great. It’s going fantastic,” Andersen said after a workout on the Pepsi Center practice court. “It feels strong, feels healthy. Just slowly but surely we’re pushing it every other day.”

Andersen played with pain in his right knee nearly all of last season and underwent surgery May 24 to repair a partially torn patella tendon. There’s no specific timetable for his full recovery, but there have been no setbacks in his rehab.

“I’m optimistic, but I’m not going to say I’m going to be ready for opening night (Oct. 27),” he said. “I don’t want to get too anxious with it. Just keep my pace and stay on the right path.

“It’s still in the back of my mind, that fear of busting it up again. I don’t want to tear it again. I just want to get in that position where I can keep strengthening it.”

Andersen has worked closely with the Nuggets athletic training staff all summer. Team strength and conditioning coach Steve Hess has been impressed with Birdman’s dedication.

“Bird’s been absolutely ridiculous this summer. He’s worked incredibly hard,” Hess said. “He’s pumped to go every day. It’s a different dude. He’s revitalized. It’s to the point where we continuously have to hold him back so we can stay within the progressions. What a great thing to actually have to hold someone back.”

Staying patient is tough for Andersen, who averaged 5.9 points and a career-high 6.4 rebounds last season but lacked the overall consistency that made him such a force on defense during his remarkable 2008-09 comeback season.

“I want to get back (as soon as possible),” he said. “Anything I can do to keep my presence in there and not lose a step on the court … that’s why I’ve got to stay in the gym every day and continue to strengthen it up and continue to work on my core and keep working on my shot. I feel real good about it, and I’m getting more confident every day that it’s going to get better.”

Andersen started lifting weights about a month ago and he rides a stationary bike about 30-40 minutes every day. He recently added free-throw shooting and spot shooting to his routine, which is a far cry from early June when he was not allowed to bend his knee and was limited to resistance exercises.

It’s an encouraging progression for a guy whose game is predicated on hustling, rebounding and blocking shots.

“The work he’s putting into it and the ability to get everything stronger, he’ll come back better than he was. I have no fear about that,” Hess said. “If you commit to the process and you work your butt off and you have a little bit of luck, you can come back better.”

Contact Aaron J. Lopez at


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