Philadelphia 76ers v New York Knicks
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 25: Justin Anderson #23 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks to pass the ball against the New York Knicks on February 25, 2017 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Game Preview | As Next Challenge Awaits Sixers, Anderson Adapting

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

Sizing Up the Sixers (22-36):
During his tenure as head coach, Brett Brown has had plenty of practice welcoming new faces to the 76ers. All told, over five dozen players have put on the team’s uniform on his watch, now nearing the end of its fourth season.

This past weekend, Justin Anderson became the latest person to do so, after he was picked up from Dallas just before the passing of Thursday’s trade deadline.

But instead of going with the immediate “shake their hand, put them in the game” routine that has been so frequently used in the past in respect to newly-acquired talent, Brown seems to be adopting a different approach - one that’s more gradual and patient - when it comes to Anderson, at least initially.

Evidence of this slight philosophical shift surfaced over the weekend. Anderson, a former All-American at Virginia, didn’t play at all in his first game with the Sixers on Friday versus Washington, and then logged less than four minutes Saturday at New York - two contests in which the Sixers were shorthanded, and essentially limited to nine players.

Boasting a deeper reserve stable than in previous years, Brown believes he and the coaching staff can take advantage of the somewhat unfamiliar luxury of bringing Anderson along at a deliberate, methodical pace. At the moment, there’s no pressing need to rush things.

“He hasn’t had one practice, he hasn’t had one shootaround,” Brown said before Saturday’s tip-off at Madison Square Garden.

A few hours later, Brown summoned Anderson into duty for two quick stints off the bench.

“He’s had half a film session and a breakfast,” said Brown, “and lots of times in the NBA that’s just not going to get it done.”

Make no mistake, the Sixers - from Bryan Colangelo, who negotiated Thursday’s swap, to Brown - sound as if they expect Anderson to assume a steady role in the club’s rotation sooner rather than later. They consider the 23-year old to be a tough, defensively-inclined, athletic prospect with long-term staying power.

Anderson himself wasn’t expecting to play much Saturday, two days removed from officially joining the Sixers.

“I’ve been preparing myself by watching intensely, picked up on a lot of plays,” said Anderson.

A self-described visual learner, Anderson, as of Saturday, felt comfortable with most aspects of the Sixers’ playbook. He said he knew just about “every play call, beside special situations and plays.”

“Now, it’s just about getting out there and making it happen,” he said.

In the Sixers’ 110-109 loss to the Knicks, Anderson grabbed one rebound and put up a shot in less than four minutes of action. The majority of his run came during a short segment midway through the first half.

Since leaving Dallas, which selected him 21st overall in the 2015 draft, Anderson has kept his eyes and ears open. His mode has been that of paying attention, constantly.

“That’s a strong characteristic I think I have,” said Anderson, “just being able to pick up on things like that. Watching and listening and hearing things happen.”

In his time with the Mavericks, a roster that certainly depends on veteran talent more heavily than the Sixers, Anderson’s playing time was sporadic. As a rookie, he appeared in 55 games, averaging less than 12 minutes. Through 51 outings with Dallas this year, he was given 13.7 minutes per tilt.

For his career, Anderson has accounted for 5.0 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He’s eager to to make the most of his opportunity with the Sixers, and carve out a niche with a franchise that has been focused on mining and growing young talent ever since Brown’s arrival.

“I’m excited, very excited,” Anderson said. “These guys play hard. The people here are just fantastic. The staff is fantastic. They’re all about player health, player development. It’s awesome. I love it. I’m just excited to continue to grow with everyone here. They’ve welcomed me with open arms. I really do think this is going to be fun. I think this is going to be a great place for me.”

After a crash course introduction to the Sixers during Friday and Saturday’s back-to-back set, Anderson was looking forward to catching his breath. Having grown up about two hours south of Washington, D.C., he said his parents were going to spend Sunday in Philadelphia, and help him get settled. Anderson also planned to head over to Camden at some point, and put in work at the Sixers’ training complex, setting sights on his next chance to contribute - Monday’s anticipated pairing with Golden State.

“It’s going to take some time, it’s not going to be something that clicks over night,” Anderson said of adjusting to the Sixers. “It’s going to take some getting used to, the team, my teammates, with the coaches. We’re going to figure it out. They’re really happy to have me, and i’m really happy to be here. I think it will work out really well.”

Sizing Up the Warriors (49-9):
There certainly is a lot to size up here when it comes to this group. Why don’t we start with this nugget - despite having already matched its nine loss total from last year’s record-setting campaign, Golden State, behind Saturday’s win over Brooklyn, became the fastest team in NBA history to seize a playoff berth.

Not bad for an encore, right?

This past summer, a club that already boasted multiple All-Stars in Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Klay Thompson added a guy named Durant. He’s seemed to fit in ok, averaging 25.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game, while shooting 38.0 percent from beyond the arc.

Durant, the 2014 league MVP signed with Golden State after a nine-year run with Oklahoma City, and paces the Warriors in scoring, rebounding, and blocks. He’s listed as questionable for Monday’s game with a left hand contusion.

Curry, coming off a second consecutive MVP season a year ago, has been responsible for 24.9 points per game. He tops the NBA in 3-pointers (231) and free throw percentage (91.6), while Thompson is three spots behind Curry on this year’s 3-point chart, with 186 triples.

Highlighting some of the team stats manufactured by Steve Kerr’s squad, Golden State paces the league in the following noteworthy categories:
• Offensive rating - 114.1 points / 100 possessions
• Net rating - 12.8 points / 100 possessions
• Field goal percentage - 50.0%
• Effective field goal percentage - 58.1%
• Assists - 31.0 / game
• Steals - 9.6 / game
• Blocks - 6.7 / game
• Fast break scoring - 23.5 points / game
• Catch and shoot scoring - 34.2 points / game
• Deflections - 18.4 / game

With a victory Monday at The Center, the Warriors will become the NBA’s first 50-win team this year.

Series History:
Monday represents the first time this season the Sixers and Golden State will face one another. The clubs will reconnect on March 14th at Oracle Arena in Oakland.

The Warriors have prevailed in the last six meetings between the two teams; however, the Sixers were competitive against the 2016 Finals runner-up a season ago. Harrison Barnes, now with Dallas, beat the Sixers at the last second in Golden State’s January 30th 108-105 triumph at The Center. Two months later, on Easter Sunday, the Sixers hung tough in a 117-105 road setback.

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