Hornets.com 1-on-1: Ryan Anderson

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

Even after factoring in an uncharacteristic 2-for-8 shooting game Wednesday in a loss vs. Utah, Ryan Anderson is in the midst of one of the hottest stretches produced by any NBA player early in 2012-13. In his first season as a member of the New Orleans Hornets, the 6-foot-10 forward has been on an absolute tear from three-point range, including going a white-hot 21-for-33 (63.6 percent) on a four-game road trip. Anderson sank a career-high eight three-pointers at Phoenix on Nov. 23, just two nights after he was a perfect 5-for-5 from long distance at Indiana.

Over a 10-game span that dates back to Nov. 9, the 24-year-old has gone 39-for-79 from three-point range, which means he’s averaged almost four makes per game. During the 2011-12 regular season – when keep in mind, he led the NBA in the category – he averaged 2.7 treys per game.

“I really haven’t seen anything like that,” Hornets reserve point guard Brian Roberts said of Anderson’s three-point binge. “How fast he gets the shot off – and a lot of them are contested – but it still doesn’t bother him. The shots that he’s made, it’s just been amazing to watch. It’s pretty much been an automatic assist when you pass it to him.”

“It’s incredible to have on your team,” New Orleans forward Jason Smith credited. “It’s by far the best stretch I’ve ever seen from any (teammate). It’s so hard to guard. He’s definitely got that quick release. But that’s just how Ryan’s been throughout his career. I think that’s why we were so happy to get him in the offseason.”

As Hornets head coach Monty Williams has frequently pointed out recently, Anderson isn’t just a shooter. The fifth-year pro is also averaging 7.9 rebounds, second on New Orleans behind Anthony Davis (8.3).

“His ability to make shots kind of overshadows the other things he does,” Roberts assessed. “He’s been playing great not only offensively but defensively. He’s been battling some guys who are maybe a little stronger or more athletic and held his own. He’s a smart, great overall player.”

Following a team practice in the New Orleans Arena, Anderson joined Hornets.com to discuss his play and the 2012-13 campaign so far:

Hornets.com: People around the NBA obviously know you are an elite shooter, having led the league in three-point makes last season with a total of 166. But would you say that your recent stretch is the best you’ve had as a pro?
Anderson: There were (similar) moments last season, but it’s different now. Last year, I had a lot more open looks, so potentially I could have shot like that in specific games. Dwight (Howard) drew a lot of double-teams, so I was wide open because of that. This year guys are guarding me a lot harder and all of my shots are contested. I don’t have a lot of wide-open looks. From that standpoint, the way I shot just started giving me more and more confidence. It’s tough every night when someone is kind of glued to you. You have to figure out different ways to get open or get a shot off.

Hornets.com: It seemed like on the road trip there were times when the ball was barely in your hands, or you only got a glimpse at the rim, and the shot was already released. Did you feel like you were kind of in a “zone?”
Anderson: I think naturally I have a pretty decent knack for where the basket is. Obviously I’m not the most athletic guy, the strongest guy or the fastest guy. But for a long time, I’ve had a natural (feel for location on the court). If you look at some of the best shooters, a guy like Reggie Miller – and I’m not comparing myself to Reggie Miller – they had to get their shots off very quickly. If you watch him, he knows instinctively where the basket is and puts it up. I’m forced to do that now, because teams are guarding me tougher. But at the same time, those are shots I practice. I want to get the ball out of my hands quickly. I don’t have a lot of time to get set. It’s about coming into a shot prepared to shoot, being ready and being low, and then finding the basket at the last second.

Hornets.com: There were even a couple plays on the road trip where you had the ball inside the three-point line, but dribbled back to shoot a three-pointer, which is fairly unusual.
Anderson: A lot of people, even Coach (Monty Williams) made a comment about that. He was like, “I’ve never seen that before.” Naturally, I like shooting threes and am comfortable doing it. What’s weird is I’m comfortable shooting from anywhere on the court, but my instinct is to go behind that line, to score three points instead of two. I’m sure if I were to miss a bunch of those (stepback three-pointers) I’m going to hear about it, so hopefully I make them. [smiles]

Hornets.com: During media day and training camp several reporters asked you about skepticism that you might not be as effective playing on a different team, or without a post presence like Dwight Howard. Do you feel like you’re already proving that to be misguided?
Anderson: You know, I always want to come into situations with a humble attitude. I came from a background where nobody ever believed in me. I had a coach who told me he thought I’d never even play college basketball. For me, I enjoy playing and I enjoy scoring the ball. If you just look at statistics, I feel like I’ve always had an instinct to score. Obviously Dwight was a huge reason why I got open. He was a huge reason why I got the looks I did. But because in the playoffs (with Howard sidelined by injury vs. Indiana) I struggled a little bit, and defenses step up in the playoffs, and I was very much pressed up against (by the Pacers in a first-round series), people thought that. But I’m also just a lot more comfortable with (tight defending) now. People always make speculations, and that’s OK. But I think I’ve always had that scoring instinct.

Hornets.com: You’ve discussed how happy you are off the court to come to New Orleans. How much do you think it might benefit your career on the court?
Anderson: I think we have a really special group and a special coaching staff. Obviously we’re looking toward the future with this young group, but I love playing with them because of how close we are. It’s fun to get to know the tendencies of each guy, and we’re learning that every game. We’re getting better at that. For me, I want to be on a team that’s going to build to do something special. That’s what is most important to me. When it comes to stats, there are places I could go where I could get every shot and every touch, but that’s not important. I want to be on a team to win and build up and have a close group that fights together. That’s what we have. I’m excited about the team aspect of it. For my career, I think that’s what I’m looking forward to.

Hornets.com: How frustrating has it been to know that this team hasn’t been close to full strength during the early part of the season? Do you think the experience you’ve had playing for shorthanded teams in the past may help in some way?
Anderson: I’ve been really blessed through my four years in the NBA. I’ve gone through a lot of different experiences, not only last year going through all of that stuff (of the Howard saga in Orlando), but also injuries. There was a time where we had to play with only eight guys available. I think the biggest thing as far as leadership for me is that (in the NBA) I’ve gone from not playing, to being in the rotation, to being a starter, to going back to not playing. I think I can share that with this group. In the NBA, you have guys who thought they were “The Man” in college, but then they come in to the NBA and all of a sudden they’re not playing. That’s something I really want to express to these guys, that it really does take a lot of hard work, effort and really zoning in to what the team’s plan is. Because I’ve played on a winning team, I feel like I know what it takes to win, also. This is a new role for me, being able to share that with teammates.