Summer league play can’t get here soon enough for Justin Anderson.
As a rookie last season with the Dallas Mavericks, Anderson’s career didn’t really take off until the tail end of the season. That’s when the Mavericks when 7-2 with him in the starting lineup down the stretch and went from the ninth seed and completely out of the playoffs to finishing the season as the Western Conference’s No. 6 seed.
In those nine games, Anderson averaged 7.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 26.4 minutes per game, and also picked up 13 assists, 11 blocks, seven steals and only five turnovers while shooting a healthy 47.9 percent from the field .
The athletic and energetic Anderson continued to flourish in the Mavericks’ opening-round playoff series to the Oklahoma City Thunder as he averaged 9.4 points and four rebounds. He also had seven assists, four steals and three blocks despite playing only an average of 18.8 minutes in the five-game playoff series against the Thunder.
Now, Anderson is back in the gym again and eager to earn more playing time with the Mavericks, who will start summer league play in Las Vegas at 9 p.m. Saturday against the Miami Heat. The 6-6, 228-pound small forward will be the featured player for the Mavericks.
"Well it’s been a good summer leading up to this and I’ve kind of been biting at the chops a little bit to get out there and finally play or compete against other people, against another team,’’ Anderson said. "I want to be solid.
"Last year, coming into it, I was kind of lost. I didn’t know what to do. I just knew to play hard and try to be very aggressive.’’
This off-season, Anderson certainly knows what to do.
Last year, it was second-year veteran Dwight Powell who was the Mavericks’ summer league star. And his play in Vegas, along with his performance during the regular season, earned the former Stanford standout a new four-year, $37 million free agent contract.
Anderson took notice of Powell’s labor paying off.
"Well, this year with having a little bit of experience under my belt, I want to make sure I go and I be solid and try to be an anchor for this team and try to be the leader of this team and kind of have a Dwight Powell type feel to what he did for us last year,’’ Anderson said. "And I think I’m making the right strides in that direction."
Summer league coach Jamahl Mosley believes Anderson can pick up where he left off last season and be an even more productive contributor for Dallas this year.
"I think he’s on the correct path,’’ Mosley said. "He’s just continuing to learn the game and know the game, and have different reads and different feels, and that comes with where he is in his growth from being a rookie.
"I just think we’ll just continue to look at him to just continue to grow in his game and do more in what he continues to do, which is play hard, play aggressively, be positive, bring encouragement, bring enthusiasm, rebound, run the floor. All the little things that I think we’re going to keep asking him to do.’’
As the 21st overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Anderson came into the league out of Virginia with high expectations.
"Yes, I had no clue what to expect, and then from there you go and play your game,’’ Anderson said. "When you’re young and it’s your first time doing it, you just want to go, go, go.
"Well, now it’s time to learn, get everything under your belt and then about halfway through our little mini-camp here is when we’ll pick up the intensity much more."
Dwain Price can be heard every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on dfwiradio.com