LAS VEGAS - Most Spurs fans know James Anderson's story by now. He's a former Big 12 Player of the Year drafted by the San Antonio Spurs, was injured during draft workouts so he missed Summer League.
Anderson started the 2010-2011 season showing promise until he went down with a stress fracture in his foot after six games. He wasn't the same when he came back two months later and never got back into the Spurs' rotation, in part thanks the emergence of Gary Neal. The NBA Lockout ruined Anderson's chance to improve from season one to season two within the Spurs' system.
When the lockout was lifted Anderson apparently looked great in the Spurs truncated training camp and entered the season as their sixth man.
Anderson struggled to find his shot early in the season and lost his spot in the Spurs rotation to Danny Green after Green helped spark a Spurs comeback against Golden State and then exploded for 24 points and seven rebounds three nights later against Denver. The Spurs then declined Anderson's option on the third year of his contract, making him a free agent at the end of the season.
Now Anderson is in fact a free agent, but there he was Sunday night at Cox Pavilion, starting at shooting guard for the Spurs Summer League team. He's not the focal point of the offense like he would've been the last two Summer Leagues that weren't. He's not guaranteed a roster spot like he was the last two Summer Leagues that weren't. But there he was, a two year veteran but a Summer League rookie, working on his game, listening to Summer League coach Jacque Vaughn's instruction and doing what is asked of him. After the Spurs' 82-76 victory Anderson said he was more occupied on improving his game than finding a team to play for this fall.
"I just play. I don’t worry about nothing. I put it all in God’s hands. I just go out and play," Anderson said. "Instead of scoring, I’m here to come and just show that I can play on both ends.”
Anderson was known as a scorer coming out of Oklahoma State and while the tools were there for him to be a good defender, it wasn't something he hung his hat on. Anderson made it a point to tell us he was someone a coach can count on on the defensive side of the ball. It was just one game, but Anderson was tasked with chasing Atlanta Hawks first round pick John Jenkins, a sharp shooter from Vanderbilt, and did a terrific job on him. I'd even go as far to say his on-ball defense was on par with and maybe even a little better than Kawhi Leonard's.
As we've covered once or twice on this site, the Spurs are a little heavy at the shooting guard position. Despite that and his desire for playing time, Anderson says he wants to be wearing silver and black again next summer.
"Who wouldn’t want to stay in San Antonio with a program like that?" Anderson said. "But you know after this I’ll figure out what I can do."
One thing about Anderson is he seemed incredibly relaxed in the Summer League atmosphere. He didn't get a ton of touches, but when he did he showed an ability to get to the basket and finish around the rim or get a foul called. He let the game come to him, which normally would be surprising for a former first round draft pick suddenly out of work. But if you listen to Anderson talk for a few minutes, you realize it's not surprising at all. James Anderson sounds confident and he sounds like he's having fun playing basketball.
"I’m not nervous at all. It’ll all work out for me.”