NEW ORLEANS — Ryan Anderson came to the New Orleans Hornets with a label: He was a 3-point shooter who could make life on the court easier for his teammates.
On the surface, he appeared to be in the NBA’s glamour spot — a specialist who comes off the bench, does his damage from afar, then exits. Eight games into the season, Anderson — obtained from the Orlando Magic in a sign-and-trade deal that netted him a four-year, $32 million contract — certainly has made things harder for opponents.
He has been a long-distance sharpshooter, making 3-pointers at the same clip he did last year, when he led the league with 166 during the 66-game schedule. But at 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds, he also has been a grappler, playing effectively in the lane when it appears his frame should not let him get away with that.
Entering Saturday’s game at Milwaukee, Anderson led the Hornets in scoring (15.9 points per game) and rebounding (8.6). He also was tops in 3-pointers (2.6), which was to be expected.
Anderson downplays it all.
“I’m just out there competing, trying to help the team win any way I can,” he said. “One game might call for me to play a certain way. And another game, it might be a different way. It’s the same with a lot of guys on this team, whether it’s Anthony (Davis) or Greivis (Vasquez) or whoever.”
Anderson’s rebounding has been big for the Hornets, who have no dominant big man. It’s not just that Anderson grabs them; he grabs them with tenacity.
Asked whether he was surprised by Anderson’s grittiness, coach Monty Williams said no.
“That’s a big part of why we liked him so much,” he said. “That’s what he does. He was a good rebounder with Orlando. But when you play with Dwight Howard and he’s got these monster 20-rebound games all the time, you don’t pay attention to Ryan when he has 12.”
Williams said during training camp that he had designs on using Anderson in different ways, including posting him up down low. At the time, he sounded like a coach who was simply looking to get all he could from a roster of young players.
Anderson has not only proved to be effective outside and inside, but also as a starter or bench player.
In the second game of the season, against Utah, he came in and sank one 3-pointer in the first quarter to keep the Hornets close, then made two more in the second quarter and hit two more in a game with several lead changes.
That was the game in which Davis was struck in the head by teammate Austin Rivers and left the game. Anderson sank a 3-pointer two minutes into the third quarter that gave the Hornets a lead, which they held until early in the fourth. His biggest 3 came with the game hanging in the balance with 32.7 seconds left, putting the Hornets ahead. They won at the buzzer on a drive by Vasquez.
In the next game, at Chicago, Anderson went all out. Starting and playing 42 minutes, he scored 12 points and hauled in 13 rebounds. Bulls center Joakim Noah mentioned Anderson in saying the Hornets “just kicked our butts.”
Davis returned for the home game against Charlotte on Nov. 9, putting Anderson back in his reserve mode. He responded by scoring a season-high 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting, including 5-of-10 on 3-pointers. He grabbed seven rebounds, and four were on the offensive end.
“When you come in off the bench, you want to be a spark, bring a lot of energy,” Anderson said. “When you’re a starter, you kind of want to work through things, and playing (power forward), you want to focus on rebounds. So, yeah, it’s a different mentality, and fortunately I’ve been both.”
Against Houston on Wednesday, Anderson had 20 points and 12 rebounds in 29 minutes of a 100-96 loss. Then, in Friday’s 110-95 blowout at the hands of Oklahoma City, Anderson led the Hornets with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-3 on 3-pointers, and four offensive rebounds among his seven total.
Backup center Jason Smith, usually a teammate of Anderson’s during scrimmages, said his effectiveness and versatility lies in his competitiveness.
“He’s not too physically strong; he just uses his body very well and gets rebounds you don’t think he should get,” Smith said. “He’s a feisty guy. I just think he wants to compete. He does a lot of things, and he’s not going to stop working on the floor.”