Justin Anderson throws down a vicious dunk

Justin Anderson rises for the jam for the Texas Legends.

Many might believe a D-League assignment is more about working out the legs and less about working out the mind. But the Mavs, for one, don’t think that to be true.

Justin Anderson, Jeremy Evans, and Salah Mejri appeared for the Texas Legends, the Mavs’ D-League affiliate, on assignment Saturday night and all performed very well, leading the team to an easy 124-111 win. Evans was superb in the first half, while Anderson turned things up in the second half and even played the closer role down the stretch. The rookie scored 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including hitting half of his 10 three-point attempts. There was little doubt when watching all three that they belong in the NBA.

After Anderson fought through a 6-of-18 shooting performance the night before — he and Mejri played with the Legends played both Friday and Saturday — the rookie got with Mavs assistant Mike Procopio and watched film Saturday morning. Always self-critical, Anderson wouldn’t accept another off night.

“I think the first night coming down was tough for me,” he said. “(Friday), I didn’t think I played particularly well. Outside of obviously not shooting well, just defensively I think I wasn’t there. I wasn’t tight enough. But tonight I think I did a good job. Really critiquing myself last night, it was almost hard for me to sleep because I’m a competitor. It doesn’t matter what level I’m playing at, if I don’t play good, it’s tough for me to sleep.”

He obviously rebounded well, scoring 24 on Saturday night. He’s now averaging 25.2 points per game on 47.0 percent shooting in four appearances for the Legends. Still, he graded his weekend performance a “C.” No matter what the box score tells you, Anderson said the true measure of success on these assignments is how you fare in the mental battle.

“Coming down, you first, ‘OK, I need to go down here to score,'” he said. “My first couple of games — I’ve played four games now — you get so anxious when you get told that you’re coming down to play, so you start thinking so much offense, and sometimes you can maybe take out-of-control shots or make out-of-control plays.”

Justin Anderson scores 24 points on a D-League assignment

Justin Anderson hit five 3s and scored 24 points for the Texas Legends.

Mejri scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and blocked 3 shots, dominating the paint. Evans, meanwhile, scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a physically dominant performance. In the first half he was flying all over the floor, leaping for dunks and rebounds and even tipping in some of his own misses. He admitted after the game, however, that he got a bit tired in the second half.

The real reason Evans has been on two D-League assignments is to work on his outside shot. Primarily an interior player throughout his NBA career, the Mavericks are working to expand Evans’ range all the way to the three-point line, hoping to use him as a small forward or stretch-4 similar to Dallas deployed Al-Farouq Aminu last season. To his credit, Evans shot 3 of 6 from deep in the game, but like Anderson, the first-year Mav was very critical of his performance nonetheless.

“I look at everything,” he said. “I’m pretty hard on myself, which all NBA players are. Offensively, I’m still hesitating to shoot the ball. That’s why I’m here.”

Come to think of it, it’s no wonder Evans got a little winded in the second half: He took more 3s in one game (6) than he has all season in the NBA.

“I never really took 6 (threes) before this year,” he said, and added after a pause: “Probably only taken 2.”

Jeremy Evans puts up 25 and 11

Jeremy Evans put his perimeter game to the test for the Texas Legends this weekend.

Rick Carlisle joined Procopio and fellow Mavs assistant Mike Shedd in the arena Saturday night to watch all three play. Evans was originally the one who approached his head coach to ask for the opportunity to get some extra run in the D-League to work on his perimeter game, a request that earned the veteran big man some high praise from Carlisle, who wasn’t nearly as critical of Evans’ performance as the player himself was.

“It’s really helping his adaptation to the perimeter, as a perimeter player at the small forward position,” Carlisle said. “He’s shooting the ball extremely well, he’s getting accustomed to guarding the perimeter, and he made a lot of simple dribble plays to his teammates.

“I hope other NBA players see his example and understand that the Developmental League is a great tool to improve your game and improve your value in this league.”

Anderson sees the opportunity in a similar light as Evans, Carlisle, and past Mavericks as well. Chief among them is Jae Crowder, who played a few games with the Legends during the 2013-14 season, posting back-to-back triple-doubles in the D-League during a time when NBA minutes were hard to come by. Crowder admitted at the time that he was struggling to stay confident in his game as he couldn’t get consistent playing time on the floor, but said his D-League success gave him the boost he needed. He became a vital role player on that Mavs team and eventually landed a long-term contract with the Boston Celtics.

After hearing that story, Anderson agreed.

“It does help boost your confidence,” he said. “However, it only boosts your confidence when you’re playing the game the right way. If you come down and you’re jackin’, and you’re not there fully and you’re careless — I think I was like that the first game. I put everything into telling myself that I wouldn’t be like that tonight.”

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