David Andersen : misses out on lucrative dance contract

David Andersen with Houston Rockets dancers

It seems that the big Aussie, David Andersen got more than he bargained for when he signed with the Houston Rockets. Little did he know that he had a shot at making the Rockets’ dance team, in addition to auditioning for the starting centre spot.

It’s safe to say that big Dave failed on that opportunity though — as the following video footage will attest to. I really couldn’t have seen him in a skirt and mid-drift top though, could you?

So, where the blimey is this all headed? In one of the many rookie hazing activities that go on, Tracy McGrady, Shane Battier and Luis Scola decided to get the Rockets rookies out at centre-court during a game and make them take part in a dance off. The song they gave to Andersen? Well let’s just say it had the words, “I said ‘do you speak my language?’ He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich.”

Thanks to That NBA Lottery Pick for the link to this video.

Putting to one side Andersen’s dancing escapades for one moment, he has had a fairly successful start with the Rockets in pre-season play to date. Having played in four games so far, the pivot has averaged 12.0ppg, 4.8rpg and shot .486 from the field, averaging 22.5 minutes per game whilst only starting one of those.

It would appear that the Rockets are happy enough to go small at times, with Chuck Hayes in the middle. Andersen’s one start did come against the Polish Hammer, Marcin Gortat who commands a bit of attention in the paint, even when he’s not backing up superman himself, Dwight Howard.

Oddly, coach Rick Adelman elected not to start Andersen against fellow Aussie Andrew Bogut in their most recent match, against the Milwaukee Bucks.

image courtesy of NBA.com

Despite this, Andersen put in a little something extra, matching up against his fellow Boomer. His finest offensive performance so far saw him contribute 17 points and 4 rebounds in 26 minutes — including 7/8 from the charity stripe. In what was hopefully one of those rare aberations of the boxscore, Andersen’s +/- for the game was an anaemic -17, in contrast to his good shooting numbers.

This being the first ever non-practice matchup between Aussie teammates Bogut and Andersen, the American media expected a little bit of hype in Australia about the game… in the vein of Yao Ming vs Yi Jianlian. Unfortunately, they discovered the toxic wasteland that has become coverage in Australia, with a disappointingly low recognition of the game. This from the Houston Chronicle‘s Jonathon Feigen:

Australia slept in.

Being that showdowns are not what they used to be, this one did not stir the imagination of a nation the way meetings of the Rockets and Bucks did not very long ago.

Then, Yao Ming played Yi Jianlian for the first time in an NBA game, and every network in China with the option, showed the game live. The audience was believed to be the largest ever for an NBA game.

When Rockets rookie center David Andersen met Andrew Bogut at Toyota Center on Monday, they figured the audience in Australia for the first NBA meeting of the Australian centers probably consisted of Andersen’s three brothers, assuming they could find a website streaming the game.

Mr Feigen hit the nail on the head, right there. The fact that coverage of the game is harder to find in Australia than a T-Mac injury-free season, might contribute something to the problem. And this is where the emphasis has to be pointed straight back at the NBA. Perhaps they should up their free-to-air coverage in Australia by actually making the product free to networks in the land downunder whilst it regains some popularity. If nothing else has been learnt in recent years by surveying Aussie basketball fans, the biggest problem in basketball’s collapse from prosperity has been a lack of marketing, an inability to watch games after the arrival of Foxtel on our shores and a consequential downward spiral in general interest from the public.

Big Bogey may have been a little off on the numbers (I think our population is closer to 20m, Andrew), or he may have just been misquoted, but he conveyed the jist of the problem to USA’s joe public, when comparing the game to the Yao-Yi matchup:

“It won’t be anything like that,” Bogut said. “We only have three million people in our country. Probably one or two (are interested). Basketball is not huge in Australia, probably scraping in the top eight, top 10 sports. Maybe during the season, if we both have pretty decent records more people will take notice. At the moment, compared to China, maybe five percent will watch.”

NBA.com themselves weighed in on the situation, perhaps not realising the league’s own contribution (or lack thereof) to the coverage/popularity equation in Australia:

Well, tie me kangaroo down, sport. Let’s just say it wasn’t Yao Ming vs. Yi Jianlian.

When the two Chinese stars for the Rockets and Bucks met for the first time in an NBA game back on Nov. 9, 2007, it was bigger than big, huger than huge in a nation with more than 1.3 billion inhabitants.

An estimated 200 million viewers in China watched as their pair of native sons and 21st century iconic exports put their footprints on the American game. That’s a TV audience that more than doubled your average Super Bowl, was likely the most viewed single-game sporting event in history and rattled the tectonic plates of the marketing world.

When a pair of centers from Australia — Andrew Bogut and David Andersen — squared off in a preseason game between the Bucks and Rockets this week, you had to figure there might have been a few mates sitting under a gum tree sipping tinnys of Four-X who shouted: “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!”

Or not.

For what it’s worth, outside of the side-splitting Aussie stereotypes, this article did get the Bogut population quote right at least (one way or another). They did have some nice things to say about Andersen, via his more well-known countryman.

What Bogut and Andersen represent, of course, are the continually sprouting branches on the NBA’s international family tree. There were 77 international players representing 32 different countries and territories on league rosters in the 2008-09 season. If Nathan Jawai makes the final roster cut in Dallas, there will be three Aussies in the league this season, with Andersen as both the oldest and the newest of the bunch.

Andersen, 29, was an All-Euroleague first team selection in the 2004-05 season when his team, CSKA Moscow, advanced to the Euroleague Final Four. Playing last season with FC Barcelona, Andersen won the Spanish championship.

“I think he’ll be fine,” Bogut said of the wiry 7-footer. “He can shoot the ball. He has a nice 17- to 18-foot jumper. He’s got a pretty tricky post game, a lot of up fakes, a lot of spinning. He’ll probably have to adjust defensively, from the 3-second defensive rule and so on. Europe is much different. Whether he starts or not, I can definitely see him playing 20, 25 minutes a game.”

The article is worth reading in it’s entirety, as it has plenty more to say about both big men. If nothing else, it is great to see two Aussie big men matching up in the NBA, in what must be the first such occurrence since 17 November, 1999 when Luc Longley’s Phoenix Suns played Chris Anstey’s Chicago Bulls. (Note: Nathan Jawai did play 35 seconds against the Milwaukee Bucks last season, but Bogut was injured for that game).

Where to for Andersen this season? He has two things on his side: a silky smooth mid-range jump shot and a slew of available minutes with Yao out, with little legitimate big man competition on the roster. He has paid his dues around Europe with a record that is near to unrivalled in the last decade — now it is his time to solidify his place as an NBA mainstay.

Official sites: David Andersen ¦ Andrew Bogut