Chris Andersen cheered on the Hornets on Sunday night from the best seat money can buy inside the Ford Center — a cozy and luxurious suite. But it didn't come close to equating to his old seat on the team's bench. More than a year has passed since Andersen was disqualified by the NBA for violating the league's anti-drug policy. The former Hornets forward, known affectionately as the "Birdman,” can't apply for reinstatement until Jan. 27, 2008, the two-year anniversary of his suspension. Andersen's face lit up Sunday night at just the thought of his return. "I'm very stoked and ready to get back in there and get back to where I was at and then some,” Andersen said. "I'm trying to improve on certain parts of my game, because I want to come back more of a threat.” First, Andersen had to overcome his substance abuse, an issue he has taken care of and now considers behind him. Andersen didn't say Sunday night which substance was detected in his system, only that none would be from here on. "It's definitely mind over matter,” Andersen said. "Basically, it's not even a thought for me anymore to drink or to party or anything like that. It's more a factor of keeping the basketball aspect in my mind frame because that's what I want to do. That's my passion, that's my dream and I'm following the right guidelines to get back in it.” Andersen, 28, is living in Denver and stopped by the Ford Center while driving back to Colorado from his home in Texas. He still appears to be the same jovial, fun-loving guy he was with the Hornets for half a season last year. He greeted team officials before and during the game, but his Hornets teammates from last season didn't know about his unexpected visit. It was Andersen's second visit to the Ford Center this season. He also came to the home opener on Nov. 7. "I poke my head in every now and again,” Andersen said. "I definitely have to keep supporting the team because of all that they did for me when I got suspended. So I definitely owe it to them.” Andersen, who averaged 5.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.28 blocked shots in 32 games last season, called his suspension a low point, but one that was needed. "I look at it as the worst thing that could have happened to me, but it was also the best thing that could have happened to me,” Andersen said.
Former Hornet Chris Andersen was back in the Ford Center on Sunday night. By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman archive