If you’ve followed his nine-year pro career beyond DeLaSalle High School and Michigan State and if you’ve paid attention to the Brooklyn Nets’ 3-9 start this season, you’d know Alan Anderson has been on many paying teams like this before.
And yet he has never been on a team like this before.
The Minneapolis native is 31 and has toted his bags from Charlotte to Italy, Russia, Croatia, Israel, Albuquerque, Spain and then back again to the NBA with Toronto and now the Nets. But even given a lousy November he never expected, Anderson sometimes still has to look around his team’s Barclays Center locker room and tell himself it’s all real.
To his left are the lockers for future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce as well as All-Star point guard Deron Williams. To his right are those for Joe Johnson, Jason Terry and Brook Lopez. His coach is Jason Kidd, a 10-time All-Star himself but a first-timer now on the sidelines.
Despite his team’s current lousy start, he said last week he still believes the Nets’ championship aspirations are legitimate.
“At first it was like, ‘Wow, am I really on this team?’ ” he said before a home game against Portland last week. “You know I mean? I won’t realize it more until after everything settles in. We’re all together. We all get along so well. We all have a good time. This is easy right now.”
Except November has been anything but easy for a team that carried so many preseason expectations and owns a $190 million tab for player payroll and luxury tax penalties.
The Nets have been injured. Starters Williams and Lopez as well as Terry and Andrei Kirilenko all missed Friday’s game against the Timberwolves at Target Center, and time is ticking on them: Seven players are in their 30s, including Garnett at 37 and Pierce at 36.
Anderson said he has been waiting his entire career for a chance like this.
“You just look around,” Anderson said. “It’s really what I always imagined. This is what I worked so hard to get to, a team that has the pieces to contend. Things aren’t going our way right now, but it’s a long season. We know what we can be.”
The Timberwolves called last summer when he was a free agent, but Anderson said the Nets showed “big interest” from the moment his Raptors contract expired until they signed him up after making all their other important summertime moves.
“We had conversations,” Anderson said about talks with the Wolves. “I guess it wasn’t too serious, huh?”
By signing with the Nets, Anderson renewed his long-standing friendship with Garnett, the former Wolves star whose summer camps Anderson attended as a teenager long ago.
Anderson always followed his hometown team — “Definitely, Pooh Richardson, Doug West, those guys,” he said — since the Wolves entered the NBA when he was 7 years old. But after Garnett came to town when Anderson was 13, everything changed.
“I’ve known him for a long time, watched him when I was growing up, since he got there,” Anderson said. “When he had camps, I attended them. We just became close. We formed a relationship, exchanged numbers and everything. He was a big mentor of mine then. He showed me the kind of person I could be. I never really dreamed I’d be on the same team with him someday.”
Timberwolves star Kevin Love and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin play the same position, average 20-something points and double-digit rebounds each and are nearly as equally important for their respective teams. But that’s where the comparisons end for the two power forwards, at least if you’re looking through Clippers coach Doc Rivers’ eyes.
“I’m glad I’m not guarding either one,” Rivers said. “That’s the way I look at it. It’s amazing how often they’re compared and how different they are. And you couldn’t have two more different players. When you look at just numbers, they look the same. But they’re completely different players, both terrific in their own right.”
One man’s take
With a season away as perspective, Brooklyn forward Andrei Kirilenko on former Wolves teammate Ricky Rubio: “I’ve been lucky over my career to play with great point guards, starting with John Stockton, then Deron [former Utah and now current Nets teammate Deron Williams] and Ricky, those guys who really see the floor. He’s not necessarily a great shooter or great scorer, but he’s probably one of the best, let’s say, engine for the team. He’s very energetic, very active. He’s always there to intercept the ball, getting the ball, jumping to the fast break and just igniting the team.”
TNT analyst Charles Barkley has long said Griffin needs to get tougher and expand his game if the Clippers intend to go anywhere in the playoffs.
During Thursday’s loss at Oklahoma City, Griffin looked over and glared at Barkley — who was sitting courtside doing game commentary that night — whenever he made a jumper.
Barkley’s crusade continues, however: “Blake is a very good player,” he said during Thursday’s telecast. “But before he can become a great player, he has to develop a low-post game.”
The Wolves’ week ahead
Monday: at Indiana, 6 p.m. (FSN)
Wednesday: vs. Denver, 7 p.m. (FSN+)
Saturday: at Dallas, 7:30 p.m. (FSN)
Player to watch:
Paul George, Indiana
Just forget the Wolves drafted Wes Johnson six slots ahead of him in 2010 and enjoy a superstar blossoming before your eyes at both ends of the court for the league’s best team so far this season.
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Wolves coach Rick Adelman, explaining why former No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams mostly sits on the bench because Adelman is “just playing the people I think can win games.”