Exactly one month into his first NBA season, playing time has been hard to come by for Mavericks rookie Justin Anderson.
Entering Saturday night’s matchup against the Denver Nuggets, the 6-foot-6 swingman from Virginia had played a total of 84 minutes — or as many as Anderson usually played in two-and-a-half college games.
But the sitting and waiting hasn’t been difficult for Anderson, who said he’s learning valuable lessons by watching the veterans ahead of him.
“Of course you’re going to always bite at your chops as a competitor, and that’s how I am,” Anderson said. “I just want to compete, especially in big games, but you’ve got to do your time.
“I did my time in high school at Montrose Christian, I did my time at Virginia, and I’m going to have to do my time at this level as well. ... It’s no secret to the formula, and I’m just going to be ready once again when my name is called.”
Anderson had his number called in the second quarter Saturday at American Airlines Center, but he failed to produce any points and manufactured just one rebound in five minutes.
But with guard J.J. Barea expected to miss at least three games with a sprained right ankle, Anderson may be in line to receive some of the 10-year veteran’s 19.8 minutes per game.
“With no J.J., first off it’s going to be tough because we don’t have that spark that we’re used to having with him coming off the bench, that consistency that we’ve had knowing what he’s capable of doing when he comes in the game,” Anderson said. “When I saw him go down [Wednesday at San Antonio] I felt so bad and I was praying and everything for him to get better.
“But as far as for me, if coach calls my number I have to try to bring that same spark. Not necessarily scoring the ball the way he does, but just bringing that energy and try to help our team get a win.”
Going into Saturday’s game, Anderson had played in 12 of 16 games and was averaging 3.0 points and 1.3 rebounds in seven minutes per contest.
Anderson said he’s very comfortable coming off the bench, and unless the circumstances are extraordinary, rookies drafted No. 21 overall usually don’t crack the starting lineup of a veteran-laden squad.
“I want to play to help this team win, and it’s not about any selfish individual goals,” Anderson said. “It’s about just doing whatever it takes to try to learn as much as I can, and I’ve learned so much by watching. And whenever I get an opportunity to get out there and do what I’ve learned, it’s always a great thing.”
The Mavs are still seething after their recent 0-3 road trip against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs.
Dallas uncharacteristically missed 12 free throws last Sunday in a 117-114 loss to a Thunder squad playing without perennial All-Star Kevin Durant. Two days later, the Mavs committed 19 turnovers and were blown out 110-96 by a Memphis team playing without Zach Randolph.
And Wednesday on a back-to-back, the Mavs held the Spurs to 40.7 percent shooting but still suffered an 88-83 defeat.
“We could have easily come home 3-0 instead of 0-3,” center Zaza Pachulia said. “It was the little things, basically, that kind of hurt us. That’s why we came back home 0-3.”