Dallas Mavericks

Mavericks’ Justin Anderson always prepared when number called

Special to the Star-Telegram Ste

He only played eight minutes in Monday’s 107-96 upset victory over the Charlotte Hornets.

But what an impact Dallas Mavericks rookie forward Justin Anderson had on the game’s final outcome.

During his limited time on the floor — all in the first half — Anderson scored one point, had a steal, three rebounds, and added a blocked shot near the rim when Hornets forward Nicolas Batum was trying to negotiate a fast break.

“It was fantastic, especially to be able to get the win was awesome,’’ Anderson said after Wednesday morning’s shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena. “It was a lot of built-up aggression from everybody coming out with the level of intensity that we played with, and it felt good to finally get back on track.’’

The successful game by Anderson was a surprise considering he hadn’t played in five of the Mavericks’ previous eight games, and had only played a total of 19 minutes in the other three contests. In that regard, staying focused and prepared for his one shining moment has been extremely challenging for the Montross, Va., product.

“I just kind of know who I am as a player and knowing what my strengths are, and continuing to work hard, getting to the gym, trying to be the first one in the gym every day and continuing to stick with the routine, no matter what it may be,’’ Anderson said. “And whenever my number is called, fortunately enough I’ve got great veterans around me who are encouraging me every single day, great coaches who are encouraging me.

“They always say be ready when your number is called and I think that’s what I just try my best to do.’’

That preparation by Anderson might earn him some more minutes when the Mavericks (34-33) meet the Cleveland Cavaliers (47-19) tonight at 6 at Quicken Loans Arena.

“He’s been really coming on all year long,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “With the way the rotation was structured (Monday) night we needed energy, we needed a physical presence on the perimeter, we needed defense and we needed a runner out there, and he did those things well.

“I like where he is. He’s by far the most improved guy on our team just from the beginning of the season until now.’’

Anderson’s productivity against the Hornets certainly didn’t go unnoticed by his veteran teammates.

“I loved him out there,’’ forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “He was playing super hard.

“I don’t even remember him making a decent basketball play, but it was just all-out, all hard, and that’s sometimes what we need. We’ve been struggling and we need some youth, we need some athleticism.’’

Anderson’s athleticism was on display when he not only popped out of nowhere to block an inside shot by Batum, but also had the wherewithal to collect the rebound, initiate a fast break and get fouled at the other end of the court.

“That block was incredible that he made on the break, and he caught the rebound,’’ Nowitzki said. “But just the energy and toughness is exactly what we need, and we made a nice little run when he was out there.’’

Now that the Mavericks are approaching their 68th game tonight – way past a normal college schedule – Nowitzki has noticed something else pertinent about Anderson and the progress he’s made on the floor.

“I feel like the game has slowed down for him some,’’ Nowitzki said. “I think early on in the season when he came in he looked a little lost like it is when you come from a new league – the game moves at 100 miles an hour.

“I think over a couple of months now he’s gotten a lot of practices in and stuff, I think he sees more and he just plays more under control. Yeah, I’m a fan.’’

Guard Raymond Felton also is an Anderson fan.

“He’s got a lot of energy, he’s young and he’s very athletic,’’ Felton said. “He did a great job (against Charlotte) and hopefully he can bring that same energy tonight.’’

That’s certainly what the Mavericks are hoping for as Anderson continues to learn the nuances of the NBA game.

“He’s got a long ways to go, but he’s a worker, he’s got great enthusiasm,’’ Carlisle said. “And we need him.’’

Dwain Price: 817-390-7760, @dwainprice 

Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com