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Birdman coming back?

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 5:51 pm •  Published: January 27, 2008

It’s been two years to the day since former Hornets forward Chris “Birdman” Andersen was dismissed and disqualified from the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. He’s now eligible for reinstatement and his agent is expected to file the application with the NBA on Monday.

A lot has already been written about his attempted comeback. Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com wrote this straight news piece. In this piece, David Aldridge of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes about Andersen being a potential player on the Sixers shopping list. And in this piece, Peter May of the Boston Globe also writes about Birdman looking for a second chance.

Here’s an advance copy of what I’ll have in Monday’s paper…….

By Darnell Mayberry

Staff Writer

The last time I saw Chris Andersen before his two-year dismissal from the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy was at the end of a Hornets practice.

The high-flying forward, still in full practice gear, had just concluded a brief, stand-up conversation with general manager Jeff Bower in a corner of Southern Nazarene’s Sawyer Center gymnasium.

That chat, presumably, is when Andersen learned his fate.

What stood out most was the look on the usually-engaging Andersen’s face. His never-ending smile had vanished. His motor mouth had slammed shut. He grew stoned cold as he drifted to the locker room before discreetly darting out for good.

But Andersen’s look appeared to be one more of reflection than regret, strategy than shock. As he twirled his hallmark headband, he seemingly knew he had blown it but already looked to be contemplating how to correct his mistake.

He’ll soon find out whether he gets the chance to right his wrong.

Andersen’s two-year ban from the league ended Sunday and he is now eligible for reinstatement. Andersen’s agent, Steven Heumann, is expected to file his reinstatement application today.

But Andersen, the fan favorite who was known affectionately as “Birdman” for his soaring dunks during his 4½ NBA seasons, could face a long and laborious process in his bid to recapture his basketball glory. The NBA has a set of reinstatement rules so rigid and risky that Heumann declined to comment about Andersen until the ruling is made.

The NBA collective bargaining agreement also prohibits league executives from discussing drug-related matters. But according to the CBA, Andersen’s reinstatement will be a decision that rests solely with the NBA and the NBA Players Association.

They will consider whether Andersen has satisfactorily completed a treatment and rehab program, his conduct since his dismissal and whether he now is judged to possess good character and morality and can be considered a role model.

The good news for Andersen is that he seems to have met the listed criteria. Despite having a reputation for partying as a player, “Birdman” has flown under the radar since his disqualification, save the occasional appearance at Hornets and Denver Nuggets games.

During a visit to the Ford Center last March, Andersen said he had completed a drug abuse rehab program and was no longer influenced by substances.

“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.”

What’s unclear is if Andersen will get another crack at the NBA.

Andersen today will become the first player to apply for reinstatement since Roy Tarpley, who was disqualified in 1995. Tarpley’s application was denied.

If Andersen’s application is approved, the Hornets would have 30 days from the date in which they are notified of his reinstatement to sign him. If they decline, Andersen becomes an unrestricted free agent and could sign with any team.

Andersen, who is now 29 and lives in Denver, has been working out in Colorado and Las Vegas since his dismissal. He averaged 5.0 points and 4.8 rebounds in 32 games with the Hornets before his suspension.

Whether he’ll return with the same bundle of hustle and high-energy is a secondary question. Will the NBA grant his return is more pressing.

“I’m very stoked and ready to get back in there and get back to where I was at and then some,” Andersen told The Oklahoman last March. “I’m trying to improve on certain parts of my game, because I want to come back more of a threat.”

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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