It didn’t take long for Dallas Mavericks forward Justin Anderson to turn back the clock and remember what’s changed for him over the past 12 months.
“I wasn’t getting interviewed,” Anderson said. “I probably just had two or three preseason games under my belt and I probably played pretty bad in them, beating myself up just because I wanted to try so hard to show what I was capable of and trying to impress.
“And now I understand what my role is and I understand that I have to be solid.”
A year ago this time, Anderson was a wide-eyed rookie first-round draft pick from Virginia who was trying to find his way around the NBA. Now, coach Rick Carlisle has already said the 6-foot-6, 228-pounder will be a fixture in his rotation this season.
“He’s more experienced and more knowledgeable about the NBA game,” Carlisle said. “At the end of the year [last season] I thought he got real good at just keeping things simple and yet bringing force to the game.
“He’s continuing to do those things.”
The struggling Mavericks went 7-2 over their final nine games last year once they put Anderson in the starting lineup, and then subsequently earned a playoff berth. Anderson parlayed that success into even more success in the playoffs and during summer league play in Las Vegas, where he took on the team’s leadership role.
“I was able to communicate in a positive way, but also be pretty stern on what our expectations were as an organization, and the guys responded really well,” Anderson said of his summer league duties. “But then also, game-wise, using the pick-and-roll, being able to be better with my help-side defense and being able to turn it on and take over if I needed to.
“I feel like I showed all those things in summer league.”
Carlisle is expecting more from Anderson.
“Just keep chipping away at the rock, keep getting a little better with his decision-making, ballhandling, simply play-making, shot-making, defensively, his knowledge of the league,” Carlisle said. “He guarded a lot of really good players the last 10 games of the season and in the playoffs last year and battled well, so he needs to keep doing that.”
Four games into the Mavericks’ preseason, Anderson is locked into a routine that he believes will help take his game to the next level.
“Now I know exactly what’s coming,” he said. “My nap, I’m coming with the pregame meal, I know exactly what everything is going to be for today.
“It feels much better, but I’m still eager to learn because I still think I have so much more learning to do.”