NBA AM: Anderson Improving More in 2012-13?
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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The Orlando Magic overhauled their roster this offseason, embracing a youth movement built around young talent, draft picks, and cap space. Ryan Anderson, the league’s Most Improved Player in 2011-12, did not fit into their plans. As a result they sign-and-traded him to the New Orleans Hornets, where he’ll be allowed to do far more than he was in Orlando, for Gustavo Ayon.
“It’s a different situation,” Anderson said to HOOPSWORLD. “It’s a special situation to be a part of because it’s such a young group and a young nucleus. We can really build together as a group. I really believe that a team can come together on the court but coming together off the court is huge. Just meeting these guys, it’s a great group of really great young guys who are willing to work and work together. We have a lot of talent. The average age on the team is 23, so definitely different from what I’m used to in terms of having a bunch of veterans around. It’s a pretty cool opportunity to be a part of a group where I’m sort of a young veteran on a team that I can obviously help the younger guys.
“As far as my positioning and where I’m going to be playing, I think the great thing about this team is that we have a bunch of versatile players so I think that I’ll be playing small forward, power forward, and maybe even center. I’ll be playing different positions, which will give me an opportunity to be out on the court more. I’m looking forward to that. It’s an exciting team and an exciting opportunity to be a part of.”
As tumultuous as the last year in Orlando was with so much negativity and uncertainty surrounding center Dwight Howard, Anderson had nothing but praise for his former team and coach.
“I had an amazing three years with Orlando,” Anderson said. “I learned so much as a player with that team and I’m really, really grateful to have spent those three years being coached by Stan Van Gundy, a guy who really challenged me and made me the player that I am now. Just having him give me the confidence that he did, especially last year. He always had faith in me but he always pushed me really hard, more than any of the other guys really because I think he expected a lot out of me and it’s a good feeling from such a great coach to have that coach have so much faith in you. That group of guys that were there were amazing guys who I will continue to be friends with so my experience in Orlando, I’ll never forget it. The people in Orlando are obviously amazing too.
“It was a great city to play for and I feel really blessed to have spent three years in Orlando, but transitioning to New Orleans, I think is a great opportunity for me to go through some change. I think I’m ready to venture out and play a different role and have a little bit more freedom playing in New Orleans. I was restricted a bit in Orlando. I’m obviously known for shooting the ball but I know I can do a lot more than that and the coaching staff in New Orleans has made it very clear that they want me to do more and they’re just a great staff too. New Orleans has an amazing staff. Monty Williams is one of the best up-and-coming coaches in the NBA. Dell Demps is a great general manager so I’m really blessed to be a part of a promising new organization.”
Anderson, a four-year veteran, has been in the playoffs each of the last three years. And while everyone talks about the Hornets as a team of the future, Anderson thinks team chemistry can help keep his playoff streak intact.
“I think it all depends on how well we gel together as a team on the court where we haven’t really been together,” Anderson said. “We worked out last week. Not everybody was able to make it because the rookies had their rookie transition program. A couple of guys are still going through the moving process. Real soon we’re all going to come together as a group. I think that’s why we want together as a group real early.
“I think the potential is through the roof. We have a group that could do a ton of special things right from the get go. I think the playoffs are obviously what we’re aiming for and the West is such a tough conference so we’ve got a lot of great teams to face. It’s going to be a challenge but I think that we’ll grow as the season continues and I think obviously with a group like this we want to keep building every year. But, we have to start from square one. We can’t just say because we have a great team we’re going to do all these things. We have to put the work in together.”
Shaq Gets His Day: The Los Angeles Lakers announced late yesterday that they would be honoring three of their all-time greats this upcoming season. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s statue will be unveiled on November 16, Jamaal Wilkes will have his no. 52 jersey retired on December 28, and Shaquille O’Neal will have his no. 34 jersey retired on April 2.
While none of these announcements come as a true surprise, the timing behind O’Neal’s ceremony is a bit unexpected. It was a certainty that his jersey would eventually be hanging from the rafters in the Staples Center, but many thought he may have to wait until Kobe Bryant, who he repeatedly clashed with before his eventual departure, retired.
Instead it comes much sooner.
It will be portrayed as a day for Shaq, honoring his incredible eight-year run with the team that was highlighted by three-straight championships. However, the feeling of vindication will also be in the air.
The Lakers, and Bryant, were highly scrutinized when O’Neal was traded to the HEAT in a deal that eventually led to them winning a championship in 2006. Meanwhile, the Lakers struggled to be even remotely relevant during that two-year stretch.
Fast forward to now, the Lakers have added two more championships and have assembled one of their most talented teams ever for this upcoming season with Bryant still serving as the franchise’s centerpiece. O’Neal has been retired for over a season after playing for four different teams in the final four years of his career.
As O’Neal takes his rightful place with the rest of the Laker greats, it’s also a reminder of how the stellar job Lakers owner Jerry Buss, his family, and general manager Mitch Kupchak have done in running the team.
Letting go of a player of Shaq’s caliber during his prime seemed ludicrous at the time, but it’s clear now that they made the right decision and April 2 will serve as one of the biggest reminders of that.
Pop’s Mailbag: There are a lot of tough interviews in the league, but San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich sets the standard. Any reporter who has ever asked him a question, no matter whether its good or bad, has felt the wrath of Pop.
Sometimes he can be just short and blunt, while at other times he can be humorous, evasive, or cranky. You never know which Pop you’re going to get. The only certainty is that you have to brace yourself at all times.
Readers found out first handed what us reporters go through on a daily basis in Pop’s mailbag over at Spurs.com. He answered questions from all over the spectrum, talking about the team and even his favorite artists. Of course, there were some trademark quips in there as well. Here’s a look at the pertinent basketball-related questions he answered.
Question: Hi Pop, what do you think Patty Mills brings to the Spurs this season after seeing his Olympic performance?
GP: Well, I didn’t need to see his Olympic performance to know what he can bring, it’s just that he came to us so late last year it was really hard to incorporate him into what we were doing. But he’s an aggressive, fiery, offensive player. He can shoot the three and really score, and that’s what he looks to do when he comes in the game. So he’ll be a game-changer in that sense, at the offensive end. And defensively he’s kind of like a pest—he’s not very big but he’s really a game. He’s got great courage and he gets into people, trying to really bother them and get them off their game. So his competitiveness and offensive skills are what we’re looking forward to mostly.
Question: What kind of season do you see Kawhi Leonard having next season? Also, where do you see him in five years?
GP: I think he’s going to be a star. And as time goes on, he’ll be the face of the Spurs I think. At both ends of the court, he is really a special player. And what makes me be so confident about him is that he wants it so badly. He wants to be a good player, I mean a great player. He comes early, he stays late, and he’s coachable, he’s just like a sponge. When you consider he’s only had one year of college and no training camp yet, you can see that he’s going to be something else.
Question: With all these teams trying to stack their rosters over the summer, Lakers and Heat come to mind, how do you prepare yourself and the team for this coming season?
GP: What other teams do is not in our control, so we’ll worry about, as I said, incorporating Kawhi into the program more since he wasn’t here very long. Boris, Patty Mills, look for improvement in Danny Green, work our big guys. Tiago and DeJuan Blair I think are going to have very good seasons for us. So we’ll concentrate on that and what we need to do as a group, and we’ll see how we stack up.
Question: How happy were you to be able to re-sign all of your free agents?
GP: Well we thought we were very fortunate and we were very happy that we were able to sign our guys, that we could bring Boris back and Danny back. And they’re going to be even better for us this year, so that’s what we look for in improvement, for them to understand the system more, for Kawhi Leonard to be here in training camp, and so in a sense those three guys are like new players for us. We regard them almost like free agents, and we look forward to them rounding out the group that’s been here.
Question: Hello Coach Popovich, since your team is one that has greatly used international scouting and are constantly adding new international players, what is the biggest adjustment international players have to make when going to the NBA?
GP: I think initially it’s just getting used to the players they’re playing against, and getting a feel for how the game flows. How referees call things, and how a game flows, but socially all these guys are more worldly than most American players, they’ve played on teams over there and travelled to many countries, they know several languages, so socialization is not a big deal at all. It’s just getting used to the league.
NBA Chats: There are two chats scheduled for today, featuring myself at 12 pm est, followed by Larry Coon at 3 pm est. As always you can checkout our entire upcoming chat schedule along with our previous chats list.