NBA AM: Ryan Anderson The Leader
From After Thought To Leader: The New Orleans Hornets gave forward Ryan Anderson a four-year, $36 million contract this summer, earning him some $9 million per season. The last person who thought he could or would earn that kind of money in the NBA was Anderson himself, who now finds himself as the veteran leader of an upstart New Orleans Hornets team.
“For me I’ve always kind of been the underdog, an underdog guy,” Anderson told HOPSWORLD. “I’ve never really put too much on myself because I’ve always just felt blessed to do the next step. Blessed to get a college degree and play college basketball. Blessed to get drafted, and once that came, it was like, “I made it to the NBA!” it’s never like “I deserve this.” So I just feel really blessed, and God has opened a lot of great doors for me, and put me in the right positions and the right situations. It’s crazy to blink and see myself here now and with this role, and being a young veteran on this team. It’s fun; it’s a trip.”
Anderson has played virtually every role you can play in the NBA. He was the surprise draft pick for the Nets in 2008. He was labeled as one of the gems of a multi-player deal when Orlando traded for him in the summer of 2009. He barely played in his first year in Orlando, but went on to win the Most Improved Player award in 2012 after making an All-Star appearance in the NBA three-point shootout contest. That lead to one of the bigger contracts signed this summer for a non-marquee player.
Anderson now finds himself as a leader of a very young Hornets team, a team he sees a lot of bright spots in, but knows it’s a work in progress before the Hornets are contenders for anything.
“We have the family atmosphere down,” explained Anderson. “I think that we can gel as a group really well. Obviously it’s just that experience. I think it’s coming out every night knowing how hard you have to play against these guys; the best players in the world. Continue to learn how each other plays, and that will come in time. Everybody is getting better. I just want to progress as we go with this team. It is a different situation than coming into Orlando which was already established; here we are working up to get established. I think it’s exciting to be a part of. We have the core values that really are needed for a winning team.”
Anderson’s new found success came from a tougher road than some of his high draft pick teammates, but believes his journey is something he can share with his team.
“God has really blessed me in this circumstance,” explained Anderson. “I can really share that with my teammates: guys that might be struggling with playing time or struggling with performance. For me, I’ve experienced it all: I’ve experienced not playing, coming off the bench, being a starter. It always comes around in the NBA. It’s a long season, and you just have to be prepared. That’s kind of a lesson I can really teach from my example, so it’s pretty cool. I can be a leader in that way. “
Anderson also finds himself the target of the opposing team’s defense. The Milwaukee Bucks had Anderson’s name and his shooting percentage circled on their pre-game board. Anderson joked that unlike Orlando last year where he was wide open more times than not, this year he’s seeing double teams and guys running right at him, yet he’s still maintaining a scorching 42 percent mark from three and leads the NBA in three-pointers made with 52 threes on the season.
“I don’t think I see the rim anymore,” joked Anderson about the defense.
“I’m really enjoying playing with this group of guys. We have such a desire to get better, and we have a young group, you know, so we have a lot to learn. We’re still feeling each other out; we’re still learning each other’s tendencies, but it’s exciting to play with a young group that really wants to get better and just loves the game. We have a great coaching staff. For me, that’s what I am most excited about.
“Last year, I just shot the ball when I was open, and that’s what I am trying to do here. Obviously with Anthony Davis out and with Eric not here, I do have to kind of step up and be ready and prepared every game to come out and perform, and I am trying to do the best that I can, but we have a great group of guys that really just want it, and battle, so it has been fun.”
Anderson’s Hornets are not exactly tearing up the Western Conference, which has brought on the speculation that the Hornets might try and trade him. However the Hornets emphatically denied that Ryan has been talked about in trade, pointing to his game last night versus the Bucks as a perfect example of why they signed him. – 22 points on 64.3 percent field goal shooting, seven rebounds and two more made threes.
“Imagine what he will look like when we get Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis back?,” questioned one Hornets executive.
The Hornets are realistic about what this season is about. It’s about getting young guys quality minutes and a little baptism by fire. It’s about finding some gems in rookies like Brian Roberts or guys like Lance Thomas. But, it’s also about finding out who their leaders are, and that a role Ryan Anderson has started to fill and both Anderson and the Hornets couldn’t be happier with the marriage.
IN RELATED: The New Orleans Hornets will host NBA commissioner David Stern in New Orleans on Wednesday and one of the topics that sure to come up is new ownerships desire to change the color scheme of the team, and ultimately the name the team goes by.
New Hornets’ owner Tom Benson has kept no secret of his desire to find a better fitting name for the region than the Hornets, and his wife Gayle Benson told reporters that she hoped to see the teams color scheme changed from the teal and yellow look the team uses now, to a navy blue, red and gold scheme.
It seems the new owners may already have a name and a color scheme in mind, however Hornets sources explained last night that there is a complex process involved in changing a team name in the NBA and that until the league approves anything, there isn’t much the new owners can force. There seems to be a plan in the works, the question is will NBA commissioner David Stern approve it, and its sure to be a topic of conversation tomorrow in New Orleans.
A Personal Rebound: Bucks forward Larry Sanders was a surprise pick in 2010 when the Bucks used the 15th pick on the somewhat skinny big man from VCU. Sanders blew away the Bucks and head coach Scott Skiles in workouts and it seemed Sanders and the Bucks were a perfect match, and then Sanders let up. After a solid rookie campaign that showed flashes of his potential Sanders didn’t put the work in in the offseason and fell out of favor.
This season Sanders has returned to form and talked with HOOPSWORLD about what’s changed in his game and what’s going on with his now up and down Milwaukee Bucks.
Not Nearly As Active As Reported: NBA teams can begin trading players they signed to contracts this summer on Dec. 15, so as one NBA executive pointed out, talks have started for teams looking for help but that it’s awfully early in the process to say teams are “trying to make deals.”
One team that seems to be linked to everything, is the up and down LA Lakers. However, league sources and agents close to players linked to the team say that if the Lakers are genuinely looking for a deal or an addition, they are not being very active or aggressive about it.
There have been dozens of rumors and reports linking the Lakers to players like New Orleans’ Ryan Anderson, Toronto’s Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani, and New York’s Amar’e Stoudemire; but, league sources say there just isn’t any substance to these rumors and reports and that the Lakers are not engaged in anything.
There have been several free agent players linked to the Lakers including Mickael Pietrus, who signed with the Toronto Raptors, after which his agent said they’d never been contacted by the Lakers despite reports saying he was on their radar.
The Lakers have been linked to a couple of free agent point guards, but the team is saying that adding a new body via free agency does not seem to be in the cards, especially with Steve Nash likely to return in the next few weeks.
As one insider near the situation joked, “How much more change does that team need?” and the truth is they may not be nearly as aggressive in trying to make a deal today as some in the media or in the Lakers fan base would like them to be.
There is no doubt the Lakers are kicking the proverbial tires around the league as most teams are doing these days, but to characterize the Lakers as being engaged in something that would yield a trade or transaction doesn’t seem to be what’s going on.
This is who the Lakers have in the short term. If their struggles continue, especially after Steve Nash returns, the Lakers’ stance could change, but for now it seems like this is the squad the Lakers will have going into Christmas, unless the wheels absolutely fall off or someone offers them an early Christmas present in the form of a sweet heart deal, which does not seem to be likely.
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