Imagine running up and down a basketball court, competing against some of the world’s best athletes, while carrying a 20-pound anchor on your back. That’s essentially how New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson describes his 2014-15 season, a struggle for him from the beginning. Anderson shot a career-low 34.0 percent from three-point range – after connecting on at least 38.2 percent of his treys each of the previous four seasons – and never found an offensive groove.
Coming off a herniated disc injury that caused him to miss the final three months of 2013-14, Anderson wasn’t even permitted to run until training camp in late September 2014. As a result, his conditioning was greatly impacted. The seven-year NBA veteran never looked like himself, scoring 20-plus points in consecutive games just once.
“Coming into camp last year, I couldn’t do anything – I couldn’t even run,” Anderson said on Tuesday’s Black & Blue Report. “Training camp last year was the first day I was cleared to do anything. I would say I was close to about 20 pounds heavier than I am right now. I like to think of it as adding a 20-pound weight vest and trying to get up and down the court. It’s a little more difficult.”
This summer, Anderson quickly adopted a training and diet regimen drawn up by new Pelicans strength and conditioning coach Jason Sumerlin. After two previous offseasons marked by personal tragedy and the freak injury he sustained in Boston due to an accidental collision with Gerald Wallace, the 27-year-old finally was given a lengthy, uninterrupted amount of preparation time.
“It’s definitely been a great summer for me, being able to train, and having a diet plan I was on,” Anderson said. “It was mostly just feeling better, after the past couple years of not being able to work out and having pretty tough summers. Obviously last summer was pretty difficult with the injury, and then everybody knows the year before just how difficult that was. It’s definitely been a long time coming to have a summer like this. I feel great. Just coming into camp and not feeling exhausted, or being able to go through workouts and have my lungs just feels great in itself.”
After three quality seasons with the Orlando Magic, Anderson appeared to be an emerging star in his first season with New Orleans, averaging 16.2 points and shooting 38.2 percent on threes in 2012-13, often as a No. 1 option for an injury-riddled team. Prior to his injury in 2013-14, he racked up 31 and 36 points in back-to-back road wins in New York and Chicago, without the injured Anthony Davis. Last season, he connected on eight three-pointers apiece in two games against Cleveland, but otherwise was inconsistent. Excluding the Cavaliers games, Anderson shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc.
“Shooting is a whole-body thing. Shooting and mechanics are important. You’ve got to have your legs under you,” Anderson said. “Shooting on the move was difficult for me, getting my legs under me was difficult. If you’re kind of dragging around the court like I was, three-balls aren’t the shortest shots; you need your legs under you. You’re going to shoot the ball short. For me, it’s not necessarily the accuracy that gets me; it’s whether I’m going to shoot the ball far enough. Legs are so important for me. Not being able to do much with my legs, especially last summer, that was tough. Last year in my mind was a really difficult year, sort of a ‘wash’ year. I want to move past it.”
With his first “normal” training camp since 2012 quickly approaching, Anderson expressed optimism about playing in Alvin Gentry’s system, which promises an up-tempo pace and the creation of more open shots. Anderson was actually set up less by teammates in 2014-15 than in any season of his career – according to Basketball-Reference.com, only 37.9 percent of his two-point baskets were assisted (by comparison, 71.5 percent of Davis’ twos were assisted).
Anderson: “My confidence level coming into this season is at an all-time high. I’m really ready to go this year. And I’m really excited with this new staff and the new players we have involved. The up-tempo pace we’re going to play is exciting. It’s going to give our scorers the ability to score the ball and be comfortable doing what they like doing. There are not going to be many restrictions. As a shooter, I don’t always want to be thinking, ‘Is this a bad or good shot?’ With coach’s philosophy, if you’re confident shooting that shot, it’s a good shot. Coming in healthy, confident, ready to go, confident in my basketball abilities, coming in with a system like this, I’m excited about it.”