Dallas Mavericks: Justin Anderson is Grateful of Humbling Situation
Despite finding himself at the end of the bench for the Dallas Mavericks, Justin Anderson remains grateful and humble in a difficult situation.
Last year, Justin Anderson finished the season logging over 20 minutes a game in nine out of the last 10 games where the Mavericks made a late season run for the playoffs. Once in the playoffs, Anderson found himself logging almost 20 minutes a night in each of the five playoff games.
The stage was set for Anderson to take this sophomore leap in his career and that hasn’t been the case.
Now, Anderson has found himself logging a couple of DNP-CP’s while logging over 20 minutes in just two out of the last 16 games he has appeared in. After the loss to Atlanta on Saturday night where he logged just over two minutes in garbage time, I asked Anderson about where his head is at right now in this difficult situation.
“You have to stay engaged and continue to support your teammates because you would want them to do that for you,” Anderson said.
Anderson is one of the more positive players I have met and staying positive seems to be engrained into his DNA. Even though some would question his play, Anderson believes he has gotten better this year.
"“One thing that is very important to me is to continue to stay encouraging and continue to talk to the guys and cheer on when I can and just being ready when I am called upon. It is different, I think I have been better this year in a lot of different ways. Shot selection, shooting the ball much better, defending, I have been doing all the things I need to do to continue to push and try to get out there more,” Anderson says."
With Anderson only playing heavy minutes towards the end of last season, it’s almost impossible to compare season stats from last season to this season. But his play is not necessarily the reason he credits for his lack of playing time.
When I asked him what he needs to do better to gain more minutes, Anderson had this to say.
"“I don’t know if it’s necessarily me. Right now it is what we have out there and the situation we are in getting our guys back healthy, our starters,” Anderson said. “Doe-Doe [Finney-Smith] right now has been playing really good defense for us. One thing I believe is I am a really good defender too and I have been watching a lot of film and practicing defense. Something that I never did leading up to this year.”"
Many people expected Anderson to be one of the first guys off the bench in Dallas this season, but to the surprise of many, has been passed up by undrafted forward, Dorian Finney-Smith.
With Dirk Nowitzki missing the majority of the season until this point, it has been Finney-Smith, not Anderson, stepping into the starting lineup. Anderson has logged 574 minutes compared to Finney-Smith’s 815 on the season.
After receiving a DNP-CD on Thursday night against the Phoenix Suns, I asked Rick Carlisle if the reason behind Anderson not playing was because of the matchup or the return of healthy players. Carlisle responded sharply with just “coach’s decision.”
When Atlanta came to town just two days later, Anderson found himself on the bench until Carlisle threw in the white flag in garbage time. But that didn’t stop Anderson from wanting to show Carlisle he can trust him in those situations.
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“Even going out there tonight in those last two minutes, I wanted to guard Tim Hardaway, continuing to show coach that he can trust me in those situations. Only thing I can do is control what I can control right now,” Anderson said.
Many players, especially young players, could take this situation in the most negative of ways where it could possibly ruin their career. For Anderson, he remains grateful for the learning opportunity and is grateful for the situation.
“It is a humbling situation and I am grateful I get to go through it rather than everything just pushed your way and you go out there and do whatever you want and make whatever mistakes. Right now he is coaching me and I’m accepting it,” Anderson said. “There is only five guys that can be out there at a time. I’m just going to continue to wait my turn and continue to do my work.”
Being grateful for a situation like this is not normal for any young player, but then again, Anderson isn’t just a normal young player. Even though the situation is different for him at the moment, Anderson believes this is something he will look back upon throughout the rest of his career.
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“This is all things that I hope goes into my career as a player, hopefully I can be in this league a long time. These are moments that are definitely going to be educational, something I can always fall back on.”