NBA Miami Heat

Could “Bird Man” Soar into the Miami Heat Starting Lineup?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Riley and the Miami Heat went out on a limb when the signed center Chris Andersen midway through last season. Essentially, it was Andersen’s third chance in the NBA after squandering the league drug policy while with the New Orleans Pelicans and undergoing a law enforcement investigation with the Denver Nuggets.

Third time’s a charm!

Known as “Bird Man” because of his mohawk style hair and colorful tattoos, no one could imagine Andersen forging a relationship with the strict Riley.

Times change, and the “Big 3″ brought a wave of change when they were signed three years ago. Andersen hitched a ride on that wave of change. Riley use to have a no headband policy, but that was changed when LeBron James arrived.

It was only fitting that Riley would take a chance on Andersen since the old school coach was changing his old school ways and it paid off.

With all of Andersen’s troubles now history and the “Bird Man” settled into his South Beach nest, he is only expected to improve for the defending champions this season.

The big man thrives in the gray area off of James’ and Wade’s drives. His long legs and arms make it easy for him to step in, grab the dish-off and finish with a thunderous slam. He did it throughout the postseason.

Andersen also gives Miami and coach Erik Spoelstra the option to play a bigger and faster lineup. Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, James, Chris Bosh and Andersen make for a lengthy and explosive squad.

Even the idea of Andersen starting at center for the Heat is not farfetched.

Udonis Haslem started roughly 75 percent of the games last season, but he underwent surgery in the offseason to repair a torn meniscus. The big man is not back to 100 percent, and Miami will want to keep him healthy for later in the season.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Andersen start a few games here or there. It is possible that Shane Battier, Haslem and Andersen share starting duties all season, depending on the lineup that Spoelstra wants to play.

I really like Andersen with this team. He fits very well with Wade and James because he can score off the drive-and-dish. Plus, he does not clog up the lane with post-up moves and helps spread the floor for the guards.

Watch for “Bird Man” to have a strong season and be a great role player for the Heat. He could produce some of the best numbers of his career this year.

Shane Phillips is a Miami Heat Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Smphil01, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.