When Rashard Lewis was traded to Washington two weeks ago, it was a statement not just about where the team was, but also the players already on the roster. With Lewis heading out of town, it left Brandon Bass open to fill in as the starting power forward and Ryan Anderson to get back in the rotation.
Anderson lost his spot as the backup power forward when Brandon Bass emerged as a more viable option. The third-year forward out of California was firmly in the rotation last year, but fell out of favor as his jumper was not falling and Bass flourished.
Anderson scored 7.7 points per game, shot 43.6 percent from the floor and 37.0 percent from beyond the arc last year. With Bass still learning how to play defense the way Stan Van Gundy wanted, Anderson’s 3-point shooting was more valuable.
This year, Anderson has seen his playing time diminish as Van Gundy favored Bass at the beginning of the year. His scoring is down 6.5 points per game and he is shooting 39.7 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from beyond the arc. Clearly, Anderson has not been as good as he was last year.
But not helping either was a foot sprain that knocked him out before the West Coast trip and then, of course, he got sick with that strange stomach virus that went around the team.
Now Anderson is back and, after the trades, back in the rotation.
“It feels great to be back,” Anderson said after Thursday’s game. “My foot is still kind of on its way. I’m feeling fine out there, I’m feeling good. So as long as I just keep doing some rehab on it, hopefully i will be good.”
Anderson said his foot is not 100 percent yet and that he tweaked it a little bit in Thursday’s win over the Knicks. It may be something that lingers throughout the season because it is a foot injury. He hopes with rehab during the season, it will allow him to play.
While Anderson has been known for his shooting, it is the little things he has been doing that have shined since he returned to the rotation.
Anderson did not play in a game from Dec. 3 until Dec. 23. In those five games — all Magic wins — he averaged 10.0 points per game, 6.0 rebounds per game, including a season-high 12 in the Magic’s win in New Jersey, and 2.2 offensive rebounds per game. He is shooting 41 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from beyond the arc.
It took Ryan a little while to find his offensive rhythm, but he is doing much more than being just a shooter.
“I think that I’m going to need to bring something when my shots aren’t falling,” Anderson said. “Rebounding is something I can definitely do out there. Energy, getting steals. I’m really just trying to focus on the defensive end. The offense will come. [Thursday] my shots were falling pretty well. Of course, I think that helps on the defensive end too. I’m just really going to focus every game on getting the little things done.”
And getting the little things done and providing something aside from his shooting may have made Anderson slightly more valuable than Lewis and gave him the opportunity to get back in the rotation.
Anderson was never a slouch at rebounding. His total rebounding percentage is up to 15.1 percent this year from 12.8 percent last year. And at California, he led the Pac-10 in rebounding with 9.9 rebounds per game. He averaged 9.0 rebounds per game in his two years at California.
Anderson has proven he is a capable rebounder since returning to the lineup.
“I think people look at me and don’t see the most athletic human being ever, maybe not ever, but they look at me and they don’t see this athlete so they might not think that I’m a rebounder,” Anderson said. “But I take that to my advantage and keep attacking.”
And Ryan Anderson may become more important with the news Brandon Bass may miss a few weeks to have arthroscopic surgery on his knee after he told Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel he heard a pop when he landed on it in Thursday’s game. Earl Clark is on the roster and hungry for a shot to show what he can do — even if he is still going through the learning process under Stan Van Gundy.
Anderson is really going to get his chance to make himself a permanent and valuable fixture in this lineup. Especially since the Magic will likely need to find that backup center sooner rather than later now.
It may not matter though. Anderson said the great thing about this team is everyone knows their roles and fills in when they have to.
“We’re really looking at the whole team as a unit. I think the difference between our team is, of course there are starters and guys coming off the bench, but we are all playing together and we are all gelling together no matter who is in the starting lineup or not. We’re playing great and hopefully we can keep this streak up.”