LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 12: James Anderson #25 of the San Antonio Spurs goes up for a shot against Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on April 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2011 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
As Josh reported, James Anderson is moving to Atlanta. He got a camp invite and the chances of him making the team seem decent since the Hawks are underwhelming on the wings, with a plethora of one-dimensional shooters at their disposal but no long term answer. This ends Anderson's career as a Spur for now and, even though he didn't make an impact on his short time here, I'm sad to see him go.
First things first: Anderson couldn't carve out a role for himself with the Spurs partly because of circumstances beyond his control (the foot injury, the emergence of Danny Green), but also because he didn't seize the opportunities afforded to him. He wasn't unfairly treated and he doesn't seem to have the type of high ceiling that would merit keeping him around when there are other more capable wings available. The team is really, really close to luxury tax territory and James' contract would give them even less flexibility.
Now, if all of that is true, why am I even writing this? Because not long ago Anderson represented hope.
When he was drafted, Anderson became the highest Spurs draft pick since Tim Duncan. A prolific scorer in college, Anderson was supposed to provide some dynamism to a perimeter that featured Manu's magic, but also Richard Jefferson's lackadaisical play and the undersized George Hill and Gary Neal. Anderson was the incumbent back up small forward that would provide rebounding and shooting and, if things went as planned, maybe even a little playmaking off the pick and roll. He started his rookie year well, but a stress fracture on his foot sidelined him for most of the year.
His second season was supposed to be the time in which he would fulfill all the potential he showed during his years with Oklahoma State and that handful of pro games. Hill was gone, Leonard was likely going to fill in at SF, and Anderson would have the chance to back up Manu Ginobili on what seemed to be his natural position at shooting guard. After the lockout, Tony Parker called his seemingly improved play "the biggest suprise of camp" and things seemed to be looking up for Anderson. When Ginobili was sidelined with injury early in the season, Anderson even got a couple of starts.
Alas, it was not meant to be. Anderson couldn't sink open 3s and his defense seemed to regress. The athleticism was not there or at least his confidence in his body wasn't. Embarrassingly low shooting percentages did him in as a rotation player, when Danny Green emerged to become a deadly corner shooter and capable defender. Anderson's last chance to convince Gregg Popovich of his value was gone and the Spurs declined to pick up his 3rd year option, which led to his agent asking for a trade that the Spurs were unable to accommodate.
Almost a year after getting rave reviews from teammates only to become an afterthought when the season started, Anderson will get a shot for an Atlanta team that can afford to allow him some freedom. They are not a championship contender now and won't likely be one for a couple of years. He won't have to battle highly paid veteran wings for minutes and could carve up a role for himself as a versatile G/F on a roster full of specialists. The future stardom the more optimistic among Spurs fans imagined is probably not in the cards at this point, but there is a chance that Anderson finds a role in this league and has a long and productive career. If he works hard to maximize his limited physical tools and his understanding of the game improves, he could be a helpful player for Atlanta as soon as next season. Shooting guard is a weak position right now league-wide and taking a chance on a 23-year-old former college standout seems like a good gamble to make; just not for a team that needs to optimize their resources to compete now, like the Spurs.
So Anderson is gone and all I can say is good luck in Atlanta, James. I hope you find your shot and get your confidence back. I know most Spurs fans will be rooting for you. I believe you can still become a quality rotation player on a great team; it's too bad it won't be with the Spurs.
Editor Note: As the resident James Anderson homer, Peach Tree Hoops asked for a few thoughts. Feel free to join the conversation and give Hawks' fans your own two cents. - CapHill