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Justin Anderson Patient and Persistent on Way Back to Brooklyn Nets

Forward finally cleared to practice this week after long wait

It took longer than he hoped, but Justin Anderson is back with Brooklyn — in Orlando.

Anderson’s signing as a Substitute Player became official on Saturday, and he participated in his first practice with the team on Tuesday. Before that, he endured a series of back-and-forth COVID-19 test results — positive, negative, then positive again. He eventually spent several days in Orlando before being able to enter the NBA Campus and go through the protocols there. Despite the positive tests, Anderson said he never experienced any symptoms.

“These last few months have been different, different not just for me but for the rest of the world,” said Anderson after Tuesday’s practice. “It's been a tremendous battle to try to get with the team and try to figure out the right way to do things. I commend my agent, Mark Bartelstein keeping my mental and keeping my spirits lifted that we'll get through it, Sean (Marks) and the staff here in Brooklyn helped out a lot as well. It's just a great opportunity for me to get out here today. Felt good to get up and down and get some running in and test my cardio. Not as bad off as I thought I was.”

Joining the Nets in Orlando is the latest twist this season for Anderson, a 2016 first-round pick who was waived after training camp by Washington. He signed a 10-day contract with the Nets in early January, then joined the Long Island Nets in the G League, where he averaged 20.5 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 16 games and was named to the All-G League Third Team.

Anderson was with Long Island preparing to for the next game in Chicago when the G League season was halted. He ended up hunkering down for quarantine in Atlanta for several weeks. Long Island assistant coach Ronnie Burrell eventually joined him there to lead three weeks of workouts.

“We did a really good job with that,” said Anderson. “My speed and agility, my strength training in Atlanta was really good. But at the end of the day, it’s basketball. This is what we are born to do in my opinion. I’ve been doing this for so long that that hesitancy is gone as soon as I’ve touched the court, feel that energy of other guys around me. At the end of the day, just being a competitor, just being able to go out there and compete and letting your instincts take over. It’s a mental battle for sure, but one that I won’t let win. It’s something that I’ve had to continue to be resilient and battle through adversity. This is just another part of that journey, and trying to continue to find more success in it.”

The Nets had 10 practices in Orlando before Anderson was able to take the court, and that followed a week of workouts in Brooklyn. It’s lost time on a short calendar, with the Nets opening up their resumption of play schedule on Friday, July 31 against Orlando. But Anderson’s time with the organization dating back to January will ease the transition.

“Being able to be with Long Island and (head coach) Sean Fein and those guys, we ran a lot of similar things in the system,” said Anderson. “Today, coach had some things on the board that I was very familiar with and I think that gave me somewhat of an advantage, rather than having to overthink some of the terms, the concepts, the schemes, even the playcalls. I think it gives me an advantage being able to know those things. Just brushing up my memory, just like everyone else has to do here in camp. But came back to me pretty fast. These guys have sent over clips of video. I’ve been able to watch practices via live video. So I’ve been able to keep up. It’s just a matter of building me up to that pace.”

Some things are different, and the 6-foot-5 Anderson fits into the direction Vaughn seems to be taking things for the NBA restart. With Jarrett Allen the only available player taller than 6-foot-9, the Nets are setting up to play smaller, faster, and more spread out. At 231 pounds, Anderson has the strength and physicality to defend a frontcourt position.

“Right away, coach (Jacque Vaughn) said you’ve got to be prepared to play 3, 4, 5 and be able to play fast,” said Anderson. “Being able to stretch the floor, shoot the ball, get downhill, use speed and athleticism to our advantage, once again, it’s something I’m very familiar with in the system. If you watched any of our Long Island games, I played 3,4, and 5 depending on personnel. If Nic Claxton wasn’t there or if Rodi (Kurucs) wasn’t there, then I may have to fill some time in at the 5. Being able to have that versatility, not only in my game and who I am as a basketball player, being able to have that in the scheme and the concepts of our offense was really important. I think it’s given me an advantage.”

“He’s going to give us some versatility,” said Vaughn. “We have some commonality as far as terminology is concerned, him being with our G League team, being with us at a segment of this year. The ability to shoot the basketball. The ability to guard multiple positions. Definitely a welcomed addition.”

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