D-League Alum Joel Anthony Forced To Fill In For NBADL Alumnus Chris "Birdman" Andersen In Eastern Conference Finals

Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

With Chris "Birdman" Andersen forced to sit out game 6 in the Heat vs. Pacers series, fellow D-League alum Joel Anthony was called upon to step in and contribute for Miami.

In 2008, Joel Anthony spent three games with the Iowa Energy as an assignment player. On Sunday evening, he was called upon to step in for the absence of another NBADL alum, Chris "Birdman" Andersen. Anthony demonstrated his defensive and rebounding skills, but had trouble finishing around the rim. The former UNLV big man ended with 2 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks in 28 minutes as the Heat fell to the Indiana Pacers, but Anthony proved to be a valuable front court option if needed for Miami going forward.

Both Anthony and Andersen exhibit a high amount of energy on every play, and despite the loss, Anthony's contributions helped Miami keep things close initially in game 6. His playing style is similar to Andersen's, as both players hang around the rim for tip-ins and put-backs, while providing a defensive presence as well. The grit and tenacity that Anthony and Andersen demonstrate, is a testament to their brief stints in the NBA D-League.

Anthony has spent his entire career in Miami, and as a rookie was assigned to the Iowa Energy for three games. In those three games Anthony averaged 8.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.0 blocks in 24.4 minutes. Anthony has always had a knack for swatting the ball, and that has been a large part of his success in the NBA. He led both teams in blocks on Sunday, but perhaps his sparse playing time prior to the game affected his chance to get into any rhythm offensively.

Nonetheless, Anthony's ability to step in and fill the void due to Andersen's absence helped Miami stay close for the most part in game 6. Now with the proposed return of "Birdman", Anthony will be relegated back to his bench role but if foul trouble becomes an issue, head coach Erik Spoelstra can feel confident in going to Anthony.

The return of "Birdman" will be crucial for Miami in game 7. Andersen has been a nice piece for the Heat in this postseason run. He has averaged 7.1 points, and 4.0 rebounds per game, and is arguably Miami's toughest front court option. Miami can't matchup with Indiana's height, but they make up for it by winning the hustle plays courtesy of "Birdman."

If Miami can get past Indiana, it will be in large part due to the contributions from former NBADL players Chris Andersen and if needed again, Joel Anthony. The type of play that Andersen and Anthony bring to the team is indicative of the style of play found in the NBA D-League. Hard working players such as "Birdman" and Anthony can add value to rosters in the NBA, and their success should be an example of what the NBADL can provide teams with.

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