MIAMI -- “Caw-CAW! Caw-CAW!”
The Birdman squawked in delight, his brilliant colors standing out even in the hazy Miami Heat locker room clouded by sweet cigar smoke and an intoxicating concoction of swank champagne and cheap beer sprayed everywhere.
Some of the celebratory stuff splashed him in the face.
“I don’t even drink and this stuff’s in my mouth!” Chris Andersen exclaimed, with a grin as dramatic as his still stiff mohawk.
He added later, “I’m going to have to go drink a lot of Let It Flys to stay awake to be able to hang with these guys.”
Energy wasn’t an issue for Andersen, as it never is, on the court Thursday night.
The scrappy 6-foot-10 forward/center contributed a spark off the bench again in the Heat’s 95-88 Game 7 triumph against the Spurs, just as he had in the four other NBA Finals games he played, and previously against the Pacers.
He made his only field goal, a two-foot stick-back of Mario Chalmers’ miss late in the first period, and split a pair of free throws in the fourth, for three points – one of only five Heat players to score in the deciding game.
He also grabbed four rebounds, blocked a shot and was active defensively. He bodied up Tim Duncan, smothered Tony Parker driving in the lane, jumped out at others. He created chaos with his long arms and disrupted the Spurs’ offense, which shot just 37.8 percent.
“That’s what they taught me to do, come off the bench, be energetic, be on the defensive end, be on the glass as much as I could,” Andersen explained. “Just be a nightmare, that’s all it is.”
The tattooed terror, who Coach Erik Spoelstra chose not to play in Games 4 and 5, saw his most action of the series Thursday (18:37). When it was over, the 34-year-old had his first NBA championship in 11 seasons.
“The journey has been up and down, in and out, but you know what? Through thick and thin I did what I had to do, stuck with it, I stayed positive and it turned out in my favor,” Andersen said.
“This is what I dreamt of since I was a young kid, finally getting an opportunity to play with a bunch of great men, great brothers. The camaraderie I had as soon as I came in here -- they made me feel welcome, they made me feel comfortable. And to be a part of this family and this organization, it’s amazing, man.”
After signing a five-year, $21.2-million contract extension with the Nuggets four years ago, he was released by them in May 2012 under the league’s amnesty rule. He underwent knee surgery last off-season, and after failing to find a new team, was spending his free time hunting hogs in his home state of Texas before the Heat signed him to a 10-day contract on Jan. 20, and then to another 10-day contract.
The Heat ripped off 27 consecutive wins after acquiring him and posted a 39-3 record in games Andersen appeared in during the regular season – the highest winning percentage by any player in NBA history appearing in at least 40 games in a single season.
Thursday night, he played a key role after Chris Bosh collected three fouls in the first half. Andersen made his first appearance with 3:45 left in the first quarter, and 46 seconds later blocked Duncan’s six-foot jumper. A little less than two minutes later, he crashed the glass to score on Chalmers’ miss. The Heat outscored the Spurs by 13 points during the 12 minutes Andersen was on the floor in the first half. In the fourth quarter, he drew a charge on Manu Ginobili and snagged two offensive rebounds in a span of 40 seconds.
“I just tried to push the pressure away [of Game 7] and really focus on what I needed to do, and that’s what they brought me here to do and I’ve been doing since I’ve been here -- come off the bench with energy, be disruptive and play tough,” Andersen said.
Said Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard: “They had a bunch of guys playing well, not just the star players. There there a lot of supporting guys stepping up and making plays.”
Whether the Birdman re-signs with the Heat this off-season or flies to another team remains to be seen.
“You know what, right now I’m going to celebrate and we’re going to talk negotiations on July 1st,” Andersen said, skillfully swatting talk of his future. On this night, as he stood drenched in stuff he wouldn’t drink, his only concern was staying up to soak it all in.
“I feel ecstatic! I feel on top of the world!,” Andersen shouted. “I ain’t worried about nothing!”
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