MIAMI — There has been a spring in his step recently, which could particularly come in handy this spring.
Much as he was during last season's postseason run to the franchise's second NBA championship, center Chris Andersen again has turned into somewhat of a can't-miss proposition for the Miami Heat.
Since missing three games with a bruised right knee, the player nicknamed Birdman has shot 40 of 56 over his last 14 appearances. There also have been six games with multiple blocked shots over that span, including Sunday's victory against the Chicago Bulls at AmericanAirlines Arena.
"I'm still young. I'm definitely two years younger, meaning my body is two years younger than what my age actually is at," the animated 35-year-old said, having been forced out of the league for two seasons due to the NBA's substance-abuse policy. "So I've got basically three, four years."
At a time Shane Battier has spoken of retirement and 38-year-old teammate Ray Allen has recognized such an eventuality is closing in, it is a subject Andersen will not broach.
"I live in the moment," he said. "At this point, I'm young, I'm playing basketball. Have you not seen me jump?"
That led to some colorful byplay as Battier stood nearby.
"Just because he's thinking about retiring, don't ask me about retiring," Andersen said. "Yes, we are the same age. But he has had an incredible career."
(To which Battier chimed in, "I have a lot of golf to play.")
With Battier still within earshot, Andersen added, "He's about to go into Congress."
(Battier, again, "Not Congress. Not Congress. Don't put Congress on me.")
And finally from Andersen, "Don't come after me about retirement."
For much of the season, the focus in the middle with the Heat has been on the progress of Greg Oden, in his bid to return from more than four years away from the game, with Sunday's victory over the Bulls another step forward, his first start in more than four years, a performance that kept Andersen comfortably in his bench role.
For his part, Andersen said he is at a point in his career where he both can live in the moment and also anticipate something down the road. Well down the road.
"It's hope for the best and prepare for the worst, by knowing that eventually basketball is going to end," he said, holding a player option for 2014-15 on the free-agent contract he signed last summer with the Heat.
To Andersen, his advance planning is like his scruffy beard.
"I don't care about what you all say about it," he said. "It's what I like."
It's sort of like the approach he took in Sunday's 93-79 victory over the Bulls, when he dared attempt a pair of 3-pointers, the first time he has attempted more than one in a game in his NBA career.
That left him with a 3-of-8 afternoon from the field, the first time he has shot below 50 percent in a game since he missed his only shot against the Warriors on Jan. 2.
Yet with Chris Bosh shooting 4 of 9 on 3-pointers against the Bulls, coach Erik Spoelstra said he could see value in Andersen, at times, stepping outside, as well.
In measured doses.
"He works at it, as well," Spoelstra said. "I don't want him shooting the same ones that Chris Bosh is shooting. But at the end of the clock, if he ends up in the corner, I have absolutely no problem with shooting that one."
But what Spoelstra most wants is what Andersen has been delivering over the past month, what he delivered Sunday against the bulky Bulls and what could be needed Thursday against the New York Knicks, when the Heat resume this five-game homestand in a nationally televised game.
"His energy," Spoelstra said, "for some reason, is contagious, it's infectious. And everybody starts to feed off of his speed, his energy, extra plays. He generates momentum for your team and he's getting in much better condition."