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Encouragement from Long Island Nets GM led Justin Anderson to vent his anger

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Utah Jazz v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Justin Anderson makes no bones about where he was at last week when two of his best friends, Jaylen Brown and Malcolm Brogdon, asked him to join them in a protests against the killing of George Floyd and other acts of racism.

As Mike Mazzeo writes for Yahoo! Sports, the Long Island Nets forward was uncertain what he should do...

Anderson, a former first-round pick of the Mavericks in 2015, wondered if his participation might negatively impact his goal of returning to the NBA.

Will this affect my image? Will this affect my standing with the league?

“Those guys have guaranteed contracts,” Anderson told Yahoo Sports. “I was the only person who was going out and speaking and doing this from a G League perspective.”

Ultimately, Anderson decided to go through with it and make his voice heard on Saturday night.

He’s glad he did.

He spoke with Atlanta’s Lloyd Pierce, as well as Long Island GM Matt Riccardi, a Nets lifer who’s also the director of scouting operations. After Anderson had finished up a 10-day with Long Island in January, Riccardi had traded for Anderson’s rights.

“Matt was extremely proud of how I represented myself, my family and the Nets,” Anderson told Mazzeo, who’s covered the Nets for ESPN and the Daily News. “And Lloyd reached out and said the same thing. It really gave me a lot of confidence, because if I’m being honest and vulnerable, I was really worried about how it would be taken from higher-ups in the NBA when I’m trying so hard to put myself in a position — and working my butt off — to get back in the league. It was a great feeling that those people stood with me.”

In the end, Anderson said, there was a moral imperative in what he chose to do.

“What made me get over my fear was understanding that I was going to be a black man in America — and my future children are going to be black kids in America — way longer than my playing career,” Anderson said. “It was a risk that I was willing to take, and luckily my colleagues continued to go out there and walk alongside me and put us at an even playing field. But it was definitely a risk.”

And so, Anderson traveled to Atlanta with Brown, a long time friend, and Brogdon, his and Joe Harris’ teammate from UVA). The result was a peaceful demonstration that attracted national attention.

“Jaylen did an unbelievable job of expressing how he felt among the people that were walking with us,” Anderson said. “People came in and joined and people honked their horns. Some cops actually gave us impromptu escorts, so credit to the Atlanta Police Department for that. I told Malcolm on the walk, ‘Hey man, you’re my brother and you know I’m with you every step of the way. I got your back.’”

The 26-year-old Anderson, at least for the moment, is without a team. The G League season will not continue. It’s possible he could get picked up if the NBA agrees to let the 22 teams in the NBA “bubble” add players. Nets could do worse.