James Anderson makes his NBA debut
The San Antonio Spurs don’t have much depth at small forward. Amongst the Western Conference’s playoff contenders, strong wing play is a staple. The Lakers boast Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, and Matt Barnes. Oklahoma City can use Thabo Sefolosha in place of Kevin Durant. When the game is on the line, the Blazers have their pick between Nico Batum and Brandon Roy.
The Spurs have Richard Jefferson, whom, you’ll recall, played horribly last season.
Coming into the season, the Spurs’ depth chart at small forward was puzzling, to say the least. Think about it: the Spurs don’t have a single system-experienced player between RJ, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and George Hill. And while Hill and Ginobili will occasionally play small-ball minutes at small forward, everyone understands their minutes in those situations are limited.
Assuming everyone stays healthy, the Spurs must account for some 15-18 minutes per game behind Jefferson. That’s quite a hole to fill, especially when your best competition is splitting those minutes between Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes.
The Spurs’ wing depth chart is completely unproven.
Enter James Anderson.
James Anderson is a rookie. And in his opening game with the San Antonio Spurs, Anderson looked like a rookie. He passed up shots he should have taken, he dribbled into traffic, got lost along the baseline and pulled up his dribble, and, in general, seemed as comfortable as a country bumpkin on his first trip to the Big City.
But it wasn’t all bad. In fact, there were moments when his overalls could have passed for pinstripes. He played well. Surprisingly well.
Anderson was called on for a whopping 27 minutes in his pro debut. Anderson’s stats: 10 points, 4-8, 2-5 for 3, no free throws, an assist and a steal.
What the the stats don’t record is Anderson’s defense. Anderson is not the second coming of Bruce Bowen. But if one game is any measurement, Anderson has the tools to develop into a good defender. More crucially, he has the mentality. Anderson displayed intensity on the defensive end and, generally speaking, stayed in front of his man. Anderson showed more determination than athleticism, and that should be regarded as a compliment.
The Spurs gave up an embarrassing 65 first half points. After the game, Spurs players described Gregg Popovich’s halftime admonishments as colorful, and Tony Parker practically blushed when asked to provide more detail. Whatever he said, it worked. The Spurs made good on their Rule of 22 and held the Pacers to 44 second half points. That, more than the frantic offensive pace, was the story of the game.
And James Anderson had a role in all of it. He was the first wing off the bench, knocked down two timely threes, and played passable defense on Danny Granger during a second half stretch in which Gregg Popovich demanded defense. Taken together, James Anderson could provide the Spurs with unexpected depth at small forward. Not playoff-quality depth, but it’s an encouraging start.