Once his rookie season ended last spring, Justin Anderson immediately started preparing himself for his second season.
And that meant having a conversation with Tony Bennett, who coached Anderson at Virginia before the Dallas Mavericks made him the 21st overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft.
Bennett has been through a lot of rough times with Anderson, who averaged 12.2 points a game during his final college season. So when Anderson started thinking about entering his second NBA season, he said: “Coach Bennett teaches me a lot. Just being humble and just continue to serve other people.
“The biggest thing is talking a lot to my college coach, working on my shooting and just continue to tell myself to keep the game simple.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
Anderson and the Mavericks (0-1) hope they’re able to keep the game simple when they play their home opener at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at American Airlines Center against the Houston Rockets (0-1).
The Mavericks were struggling with a 35-38 record and in danger of missing the playoffs last season when they inserted Anderson into the starting lineup. The results: Anderson provided a spark, some energy, some athleticism, and the Mavericks posted a 7-2 record down the stretch and rolled into the playoffs as the Western Conference’s No. 6 seed.
So how does Anderson, who also sparkled in the playoffs, pick up where he left off last season?
“He’s just got to keep progressing with his knowledge of our system, knowledge of the game, knowledge of the league,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s got to keep doing things hard, he’s got to keep working on his shooting, recognition of situations, and we need him to be a lock-down defender.
“It’s so important in this league to be able to guard your position, and he’s one of the guys that has the ability to do it. We need him to be one of those guys.”
Carlisle acknowledged the missteps Anderson made early on as a rookie. But once the light bulb came on, the 6-foot-6 swingman was a beacon of light for the Mavericks.
“He made mistakes and he spent time in the D-League and he learned,” Carlisle said. “He’s a smart guy and he picked things up.
“He’s very coachable, and he wants to be the best that he can be. He’s got a lot of positive attributes as a person going for him.’’