'Birdman' is back

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Chris (Birdman) Andersen is back in the NBA, and he plans to fly with the Hornets.

The NBA's decision to approve Andersen's reinstatement after a two-year suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy clears the way for the 29-year-old forward to rejoin the Hornets for the regular-season homestretch. He is expected to sign once he passes a physical on Tuesday.

"Chris is incredibly excited to be back," his agent, Steven Heumann, said. "He's grateful to the NBA and the union for reinstating him and for giving him the opportunity to resume his career."

Andersen, the first NBA player to be kicked out for drug use since Stanley Roberts in 1999, was required by league rules to sit out two years, with reinstatement contingent on approval by the NBA and the players' association. Andersen, who has admitted his past drug use, says he has been clean and sober for two years.

Known for his wild hair styles and pogo-stick jumping ability, the 6-foot-10 Andersen could help the Hornets as they try to hold onto a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The high-energy forward holds career averages of 5.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 16.6 minutes. He had his best season with the Hornets in 2004-05, averaging 7.7 points, 6.1 boards and 1.5 blocks in 21.3 minutes.

Andersen was in the first year of a four-year $13 million contract when he was suspended. Per league rules, the Hornets can re-sign him to a one-year, pro-rated share of the salary he was making at the time ($3.5 million). New Orleans officially has 30 days to determine whether to sign or release him, but the club already has decided to bring him aboard.

In a statement released by the Hornets on Tuesday, general manager Jeff Bower said the team was looking forward to Andersen's return. "We were always more concerned with Chris Andersen the person rather than Chris Andersen the player and are pleased that he has taken the appropriate measures to get himself reinstated by the NBA," Bower said.

"We will now begin the process of getting him back on the court and back in a Hornets uniform as quickly as possible."

Anderson has not played organized basketball for two years. He completed a rehab program in Malibu, Calif., in the months after his suspension in January 2006, and has been working out diligently since then at his home in Denver and in Las Vegas. During his Las Vegas training sessions, he often worked out with Kevin Garnett, Chauncey Billups and Jermaine O'Neal, among other NBA stars.

"Conditioning-wise, he's in great shape. He's worked hard. He's ready to go," Heumann said. "It's just a matter of regaining his timing."

New Orleans is thin in the frontcourt, with the likes of Melvin Ely and Ryan Bowen serving as the top backups for starters Tyson Chandler and David West. With so many other top Western contenders loading up in recent weeks, the Hornets needed to do something to shore up that area.