I wrote a little about Alan Anderson’s NBA journey, but that barely scratched the surface of his basketball story. An example: After calling his agent to confirm his career stops during his time in Europe, a five-page PDF outlining each of the countries and teams he has played for arrived in my email inbox. It’s been a long seven years for Anderson.
When you’ve been in the game that long, you tend to cross paths with other basketball people. After the Raptors victory on Sunday evening against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Anderson was asked how he knew current coach Dwane Casey from Casey’s time in Minnesota, Anderson’s hometown.
Anderson explained that as a teen he would shoot around in the facility and that he once did a radio interview with Casey because his best friend (Arizona Cardinals receiver) Larry Fitzgerald asked him if he wanted to and Anderson said that his relationship with his coach has been cool since then.
Fitzgerald wasn’t the only interesting friendship Anderson had in Minnesota, though. After being named the MVP of then-Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett’s basketball camp, Garnett befriended the high schooler, helping provide both motivation and an ear, as Anderson began to seek out his hoop dream.
“Coming up, I was like, you know, not too many players come out of Minneapolis, so he had a camp, something like that, and I got MVP at the camp and then I got to meet him and then we exchanged numbers and he was just great, just a mentor for me,” Anderson said. “Just looking up, I was like, you know, Kevin Garnett at the time with the Timberwolves, he was The Big Ticket, you know what I mean? He just always looked after me, checked up on me. Being in high school, and you got Kevin Garnett, you know…” this is where Anderson stops to mime looking at a cell phone, “Talking to Kevin Garnett it’s like, ‘Man, look at this, man!’ you know what I mean? It just shows how much of a great person he is. He just always talked to me, always kept my head even when my first year out of the NBA he just [said], ‘Keep your head. Keep working hard. You’re going to get back, you know you’re an NBA player.’ He just always stayed positive with me and that helped out a lot.”
Anderson stressed how much of an impact Garnett had on him and Minnesota as a whole during that time.
“It was amazing,” Anderson said. “It was amazing. He lifted the whole city. Everybody wanted to be a Timberwolf then, everybody wanted to have some type of hands onto that organization. He just brought so much energy back into the whole city.”
Though there’s only a six-year gap between the two, Garnett’s support had a lasting effect on Anderson. Imagine being mentored by the best player in your city.
“Even though he came out of high school, it was like he’s in the NBA and I’m in …” After a laugh, he continued, “It’s a big difference.”
The Raptors will face the Celtics on November 17th. Anderson will not be getting snubbed Ray Allen-style during that game, though. Watching Garnett up close in Minnesota, he knows better than to try to say hello when it’s game time.
“I can’t,” Anderson said. “You don’t speak to Kev during the game, you gotta speak to him after the game. You don’t say nothing to him, ’cause he…” Anderson trails off, making the face that we’ve all seen from Garnett over the years. “Just leave him alone, don’t say nothing to him.”
* Anderson on Casey’s coaching style: “I think he practices what he preaches. He wants a defensive team and he gets on us about that. We watch film the next day of every game, every practice we do and we pick out our defensive things. he shows the good and the bad to show us that we can do it, but also shows us the negative and what we need to do better and he shows us how to do it. He’s been on teams like the Dallas Mavericks where he’s seen guys win championships and he knows what it takes. He shows his leadership and forces that on us and we’ve got to own up to it.”
* Anderson on the difference between the NBA and playing overseas, specifically when his teammates were calling this year’s training camp really intense: “To me, training camp is an everyday practice in Europe. They play one or two games a week so all they have is practice. They spill everything they have on those practices.”
* Anderson joking with media when asked if he’s got hands like Fitzgerald: “Better. (Laughs) I don’t want to get into that, cause I’ma let him be the amazing receiver he is.”