When we think of professional athletes in any sport, an emotion we feel is how lucky these select few are to be blessed with the talents and skills to play a sport for a living and earn a tremendous amount of money. Sometimes we forget that not everyone’s paths are paved perfectly.
Upon graduating Michigan State, Alan Anderson found himself undrafted. Eventually he caught on with the Charlotte Bobcats but after 53 games over two seasons (2005-07), Anderson found himself without an NBA home. This was just the beginning of his travels.
From 2007 until 2012 Anderson found himself literally bouncing around the globe, playing internationally in Italy, Russia, Croatia, Israel, Spain, and China. He won championships in Croatia, Israel and Spain, missed playing with Bojan Bogdanovic by a few months in Croatia and played with Sergey Karasev's father in Russia!
For a guy from Minnesota, talk about getting your passport stamped. He had stints in the NBDL as well, with stops in Tulsa, New Mexico, and Canton. There was a summer league tryout with Memphis and the Lakers.
Finally in 2012, another job opportunity abroad presented itself, and although this position was in Canada, a 10-day contract with the Toronto Raptors meant a return to the NBA. During this time, Anderson was not only able to secure a contract for the remainder of the season, but ultimately worked his way into Dwane Casey’s starting lineup. The Raptors rewarded Anderson’s hard-nosed play when they re-signed him for the 2012-13 season.
With all of the hoopla surrounding the prized acquisitions of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, and Andrei Kirilenko, a season ago, the one-year, the veterans minimum contract awarded to Anderson slipped under the radar. But Jason Kidd had liked what he saw in Anderson's two games vs. his Knicks the year before when he scored 35 in game and 26 in another. After all, who pays attention to the league vagabonds who fill out the final spot of the 15-man roster?
Over the past season and a half, there have been many instances of Anderson being the target of Nets fans’ ire and rightfully so as the shooting guard has had a tendency to be too aggressive (or out of control) and forcing things on both ends of the court. Yes, Anderson is limited as a player, but so are most NBA players. However, if you’ve been paying attention over the past several weeks, there’s no denying the positive impact he’s been providing to the team.
When the Nets were blown out in consecutive games in Los Angeles and Utah, head coach Lionel Hollins inserted the well-traveled veteran into the starting lineup when the team visited Atlanta. In those ten games since, the Nets have a 5-5 record, and with the exception of the no-show in Washington, Brooklyn has shown more of a competitive spirit.
Consider Anderson’s "per game" statistics over the ten game stretch (not including Wednesday’s loss in New Orleans) since replacing Bojan Bogdanovic as the starting shooting guard. Not only is he shooting the ball extremely well, but he also making better decisions, evident by the low turnover rate. In fact, in six of the ten games, Anderson has not committed a single turnover.
Furthermore, Anderson has flipped the script in terms of offensive and defensive ratings as the season has progressed.
Now I am not suggesting that Anderson is a cornerstone piece of the present nor a building block for the future. However his presence mustn’t be diminished. His tough and gritty demeanor is a welcome sight, especially when you consider that so much criticism over the past few years has been that Brooklyn is a soft team without a backbone. Not to mention, he has been one of the Nets’ better defenders as well during this time.
Clearly there is a lower ceiling for him than for his higher priced teammates in terms of his skill set in comparison to others, but during this recent stretch he has shown that he can contribute in a positive manner when he plays within himself. In case you have forgotten, it was his insertion into the starting lineup that helped the Nets rally to win the last two games against Toronto in the first round of the postseason a year ago.
When you consider his long travels and what he had to overcome, Anderson is somewhat of a "rags to riches" story in the league. For an organization that features some of the more overpaid "stars" of the league, it’s nice to see someone who has had to work his way from the bottom to achieve success.