DALLAS — Although most of his playing time came late in a runaway 122-73 win Sunday over the Los Angeles Lakers, second-year pro Justin Anderson was simply happy to contribute for the Dallas Mavericks during a much-needed victory.
Scoring 12 of his career high-tying 19 points in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win, the 6-foot-6 Anderson made the most of his additional playing time after limited action during the first half of his second season. He also led seven different scorers in double figures as the Mavericks (15-29) bounced back from consecutive losses in impressive fashion, earning the praise of his veteran teammates and head coach in the process. And although Anderson’s admits that his performance might not be enough to earn more time on the court going forward, he also says that playing a role in the win was still rewarding after patiently waiting for his opportunity.
“It was good. I’m just thankful for the opportunity, and I just went out there and played as hard as I can,” Anderson said following a 5-of-11 shooting performance during Sunday’s win. “I’m just happy that my teammates helped me and pushed me to go out there and be aggressive, and those guys helped me and put me in good positions.”
He added: “You know, I’m just trying to stay optimistic, man, and just keep trying to understand that this is a part of my growth individually. This is something that one day I’m going to look back and say that this was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, so I’m just humbled. Right now, my head is in the dirt, and I’m just continuing to work hard and trying to do everything I can to help my team when my number is called. It feels good for us all to go out and get this win.”
This isn’t the first time Anderson has been forced to wait for his opportunity to make an impact, seeing little action much of his rookie season before emerging late in the 82-game schedule to help push the Mavs into the playoffs. However, after a strong close to the 2015-16 campaign, Anderson was expected to pick up where he left off at with an even stronger second season.
The 23-year-old Anderson was unable to initially crack Mavs coach Rick Carlisle’s rotation early in his rookie year, making 55 appearances while averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 11.8 minutes per outing last season. He was then inserted into the starting lineup and quickly provided a spark on March 28 in Denver, scoring 11 points, grabbing four rebounds, dishing two assists, collecting a steal and registering two blocks in 24 minutes of action during a 97-88 victory that led to wins in seven of the final nine games and a playoff berth. Anderson upped his production in the playoffs by averaging 9.4 points, 4.0 boards and 1.4 assists in 18.8 minutes as the Mavericks fell to Oklahoma City in five games during the first round. And although Sunday’s win gave all of the Mavs’ young contributors a chance to show what they can do, starting point guard Deron Williams says he was most excited for Anderson’s impressive showing.
“I know it’s been tough on a lot of them, especially Justin. He was playing a lot early, and lately he’s either not played or played sparingly,” Williams explained. “I know that can be tough on him, but obviously, he’s stayed professional. He keeps working hard, and (Sunday) he got his opportunity and made the most of it.”
On the season, Anderson is averaging 6.8 points and 3.2 rebounds, shooting just 39.8 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from three-point range during his 40 appearances. The 21st overall pick in in the 2015 draft has also seen his playing time impacted by the emergence of 26-year-old sharpshooter Seth Curry and undrafted rookie Dorian Finney-Smith. That said, Carlisle confesses that Sunday’s performance may not be enough to earn Anderson more playing time immediately. But after seeing the young pro remain ready for his opportunity, Carlisle says he won’t hesitate to insert Anderson into the lineup when the time calls for it.
“He’s been working extremely hard, so he put himself in a position to succeed (on Sunday),” Carlisle said while assessing Anderson’s latest performance. “And if you’re looking at the stats and the numbers, he scored and made shots, which was great. I thought he went hard and he took a charge, so there’s a lot of positives there.”
Note: The Mavericks will now conclude their three-game homestand Wednesday at American Airlines Center, hosting the New York Knicks. New York leads the season series 1-0 after a 93-77 home win on Nov. 14. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
Wesley Matthews (right hip strain) — day-to-day
Andrew Bogut (right hamstring strain) — out
J.J. Barea (left calf strain) — out