The Journal Gazette
Thursday, October 28, 2021 1:00 am

NBA veteran fitting in with Mad Ants

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Justin Anderson is not a do-the-bare-minimum type of guy.

He's less than a week into his time with the Mad Ants and he has already talked his way into the team's war room for last weekend's draft – eager to absorb information and experiences – and spent the first three days of practice asserting his 6-foot-6 size that makes him one of the Mad Ants' largest players. And with 241 games of NBA experience, he came in knowing he has to be a leader for the Indiana Pacers' G League team, though he'd thought about that role and realized he couldn't go with an alpha attitude.

“When we introduced ourselves from the jump, we gave a bio of who we are, what we stand for and where we're from,” Anderson said. “I gave all the requirements, but then I also said: 'We'll get to know each other over the course of the season. I'm a big fellowship person and I like to break bread, I like to go to dinner, go get breakfast and just talk to guys then and be able to just help guys if they have questions.'

“In this sport, in this profession, there are a lot of good days and there are a few bad. Sometimes, there can be a lot of bad, depending on where you're coming from and what situation you're in. Sometimes being able to have that teammate who can understand what you're going through, that can be really beneficial at the right time.”

The Mad Ants open Nov. 6 against the Windy City Bulls at Memorial Coliseum.

On the roster are four players selected in Saturday's draft – Gabe York, Ian DuBose, Jordan Allen and Will Vorhees – and Anderson, whose rights were acquired Sept. 23 from the Long Island Nets for Josh Gray. Anderson was in the room when the picks were made. Anderson, fresh off training camp with the Pacers, had told Mad Ants general manager Chris Taylor he was interested in the process, so Taylor gave him an invite.

“I've always wanted to kind of be a fly on the wall in those types of situations. I felt really humbled and privileged to be a part of that and see how far the G League has come along. ... It was a cool process to kind of sit back and watch and observe, and see how it all goes down, and I think we had a really good draft,” said Anderson, whose G League experience goes back to 2015 when he played for the Texas Legends, the minor-league team of the Dallas Mavericks, who were coached by current Pacers coach Rick Carlisle.

Anderson has played for the Mavericks (2015-17), Philadelphia 76ers (2017-18), Atlanta Hawks (2018-19) and Brooklyn Nets (2019-20), averaging 5.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 13.1 minutes in 226 regular season games, plus 4.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 10.4 minutes in 15 playoff games. In 38 G League games, he's averaged 21 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

Anderson, 27, didn't rule out some interest in becoming a scout, executive or coach someday, but it's clear he's got many playing days remaining and wants to share his knowledge with teammates. That includes understanding some things are out of a player's control, a lesson that may be learned as five are cut from a roster of 17.

“Everybody wants to blame basketball as a business, but at the end of the day we're all part of the business,” said Anderson, who was a Mavericks first-round pick out of Virginia in 2015. “When it's going well for you, people don't always want to take that ownership and say, 'Well, I'm a part of the politics, I'm a part of the business.' When it goes bad, you want to blame the business. I've never taken that approach. I recognize that sometimes it comes down to a numbers game.”

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