Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A Day of Reckoning

Rogue Wave- "Bird on a Wire"

Sunday was one of the most exciting sports days in recent memory, and, believe it or not, I'm not even talking about football.

About two years ago, at the beginning of the end, Bird could be seen at almost any skeezy bar in uptown New Orleans. P.T.'s sister called him one night like, "There's some really sketch dude here. He's got to be almost seven feet. I guess he plays basketball. Do you want me to take a whole bunch of pictures of him for you?" Yes please.

Exactly two years ago, Chris "Birdman" Andersen, one of my favorite players, was dismissed from the NBA for violating its substance abuse policy. (The NBA isn't in the business of listing the drugs its players are pacing, but the rumors said it was meth. Considering that weed usually gets a five-game suspension, I always thought two years was pretty harsh for a drug that probably inhibits you from playing good ball anyway.) He was kicked off the Hornets roster and banned from league play for the next two seasons. During those two seasons, he worked out at Blinn College, listened to "Gimmie Back My Bullets" over and over again (seriously), and lived a pretty regret-filled existence.

I still remember the day the terrabull news came. P.T. called me while I was waiting in line at Taco Bell, and I had to take a minute to collect myself before ordering my Cheesy Gordita Crunch(es). However, I always thought that wasn't the last chapter of Bird's story. He was still in his twenties and, since grit was the thing I liked the most about him, I thought he had what it would take for a comeback.

I'm looking at my Birdman autograph right now. A buddy of mine was working for now-Governor Bobby Jindal, and he had to go to the capitol building for some reason. And for some other, inexplicable reason, Bird and Hugo were there for something. My friend approached him and got him to write on a legal pad "To Chris--Hardness Chris Andersen 'Bird'." I'm sure whenever someone asks Chris Andersen for an autograph, they have to justify it by telling him, "I'm a really big fan." But in this case it was true.

So Sunday was the Super Bowl--whateves--but it was also the day when Birdman could officially apply to be reinstated to the league. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, no one has gone through this process before, so it should be interesting to see what happens from here. If he's reinstated--and I'll be pretty pissed if he isn't--the Hornets have exclusive rights to re-sign him within the next thirty days, after which he'll become an unrestricted free agent. (Incidentally, the Hornets wouldn't just pick up his old contract, under which they would owe my boy $3.5 million. It would be pro-rated and stuff, and I would explain the rules more than that if I understood it.)

Even though the Hornets are in a weird tie for my favorite team (terrabull), even though Birdman is one of my favorite players, I'm not sure if he's a good fit for us anymore or not. They certainly need some front-court depth and rebounding off the bench, and signing an Energy Guy right before the all-star break could be just what this team needs for a playoff push.

On the other hand though, Birdman burned quite a few bridges with Byron Scott the first time around, and this team is much different from the one for which he used to play. It's one that thrives on chemistry. Sure, the roster isn't deep, but the team works because the starters play together better than any other team in the league. Bringing a guy with lots of baggage into the fold might throw everything off, even if he's a gritty, high-flying finisher. Only if those players bless it would I want Birdman to have anything to do with them. Hell, even if only Chris Paul didn't want to pull the trigger, I'd be content to stick with my Bird Create-a-Player in NBA Live.

Whether he plays for New Orleans or anywhere else, Birdman should be much more thankful for an NBA career the second time around, and he should be back to his old ways in a few weeks. Ca-caw!

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