DALLAS, TX – In the heat of the moment, every trade presents challenges.
Justin Anderson, on the heels of this past February’s trade deadline, had to adjust to a new team and new city on the fly. There was really no time for him to get settled.
But now, having the benefit of hindsight, and a hard-working off-season in the rearview, Anderson has come to view the exchange that sent him from the Dallas Mavericks to the 76ers as “the best thing” that’s ever happened to him.
Saturday night (8:30 PM EST; NBC Sports Philadelphia, 97.5 FM The Fanatic / Sixers Radio Network), the 23-year old forward will have his first chance to play in Big D since the deal was made.
“I don’t have enough time to talk about the emotions that went into that – the ups and the downs,” Anderson said Friday, following the Sixers’ practice. “It’s almost like half of your life was somewhere else. I’m here in Philadelphia, staying into a hotel out of three suitcases, while everything else in my life was in Dallas. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t get a truck, couldn’t get a house here right away. It took time.”
About a month into the spring, Anderson eventually found a home, choosing to live in Center City. With his place just a short shot over the Ben Franklin Bridge from the Sixers’ training complex in Camden, he quickly established himself as a summertime regular in the building, refining his game, his body, his diet, and anything else that he felt would put him in position to make a difference this season.
So far, when summoned, the Virginia product has produced. He stood out particularly in Wednesday’s loss to Houston, depositing a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter that increased the Sixers’ lead, plus a lay-up in the third that put the team ahead by 3 points.
By the end of the evening, Anderson had finished with 8 points, and season-highs of 3 rebounds and 18 minutes. Two days earlier, in Detroit, he went for 12 points, again hitting two triples.
Whether in games, practices, or late-night workouts at the Sixers’ facility, Anderson has taken it upon himself to make a difference, not only through performance, but energy and leadership.
“I just want to be able to do whatever I can to help our team win,” he said. “That’s the most important thing to me.”
His level of care is not only reflected by his enthusiastic, upbeat body language, but also his proactive attitude, and a goal-oriented mindset.
Often, Anderson picks the brain of fellow wingman Robert Covington, talking to last year’s Defensive Player of the Year vote-getter about personnel and tendencies.
These conversations have a purpose, says Anderson.
“Going into training camp, I told myself I want to be a top 10 defender in the NBA,” Anderson said. “Some people may laugh, but it will happen. I take it very personally.”
Like Covington, Anderson hopes to cement his status as someone the Sixers can count on both defensively, and from the 3-point line.
“I want to be everyone’s favorite 3 and D guy,” said Anderson. “I want to continue to put myself in a position to space the floor, knock down threes, make athletic plays at the rim, and also be able to guard my butt off.”
“There’s a cocky side, there’s a physical side, there’s a toughness that I like,” Brett Brown said Friday of Anderson. “He’s different than our other wings. Him making shots and him having that toughness are two pretty important qualities.”
Since joining the Sixers, Anderson has credited Brown, the team’s assistants, and strength and conditioning staff for bringing about positive changing his habits.
“I always worked hard, but now I understood what it took to get better defensively, to get better offensively, to get better with my body and things like that. I put myself in a position to accept it, understand it, and now, I’m so happy that Bryan [Colangelo] made the move for me.”
As for his return to Dallas, Anderson says he’s got nothing but love for the organization that broke him into the NBA. But once the ball is tipped Saturday?
“We’re trying to attack,” he said, “and we’re trying to put ourselves in position to go get a win on the road.”
After dropping their first four games of the season to Atlanta, Sacramento, Houston, and Golden State, the Dallas Mavericks (1-5) picked up win No. 1 Wednesday in impressive fashion, knocking off previously unbeaten Memphis, 103-94, at American Airlines Arena. The Mavs and Grizzlies then played again Thursday in Memphis, with the Grizz taking that one, 96-91. Nerlens Noel started both games. He opened the year on the bench, and is averaging 8.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in 19.0 minutes per contest.
• Video: NBC Sports Philadelphia / NBC Sports app
• Audio: 97.5 FM The Fanatic / Sixers Radio Network