Rashard Lewis has been Orlando’s starting power forward for each of the last three seasons. This season, Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy has decided to give Lewis more minutes at small forward, meaning either Brandon Bass or Ryan Anderson has to step up and take those power forward minutes.
Last season, both players were extremely inconsistent.
Anderson started six games during Rashard Lewis’ PED suspension but missed four of those games with an ankle injury and didn’t play in 15 other games. Bass played in just 50 games, making three starts.
It’s hard for either player to give a consistent performance without consistent minutes.
Bass has received more time so far early in this young season but when you have a very deep team like the Magic do, minutes are at a premium but both players understand they could be called upon to step up at any time.
“With that opportunity, I want to take advantage of it and give it my best each and every play,” Bass told ESPN 1080.
“As a player, that’s a tough position to be in,” Anderson said. “But the fact that we have so many guys that can step in and play their role, we can play with different guys. There are so many guys who deserve to play and can play so it’s tough for a player but if you look at it from a team aspect, we have so many players on this team that can play. I just have to be ready when coach calls my name and just perform the best that I can when I get out there.”
To buy into a philosophy like that, it takes a lot of trust in your head coach. Both Anderson and Bass have that trust in Van Gundy.
“Everybody pushes everybody,” Bass said. “We’re all competing. Coach just tries to go out there and put the best of group of guys out there to execute the game plan and win the game.”
“All you can do is just trust coach and trust that he knows what to do to put the best players on the court in the best situation,” Anderson added.
Although both players have continued to say and do the right things, it’s obvious they have the same, ultimate goal – to play as much as possible – but that hasn’t stopped the two players from working with each other in practice each and every day, helping one another get better.
“Me and Brandon push each other every day in practice,” Anderson explained. “It’s good to play against Brandon every day in practice because it gives me that defensive aspect. Rather than guarding a guy like Rashard (Lewis), who plays I like I play, I play a guy like Brandon, who is a huge threat down low in the post and keeps me held accountable in practice.”
With Bass’ reputation as more of a bruiser and a guy who liked to battle down low and Anderson’s reputation for being a sharpshooter, the two players complement each other well.
“We’re different players,” Anderson said. “I’m more of a 3-point-shooter who can stretch the floor and he’s a bruiser, low-post player and offensive rebounder.”
Although each player’s reputations are well-deserved, their games are much more diverse.
“Yeah, most definitely,” Anderson responded when asked if the other aspects of their games were underrated. “I think Brandon’s just a knock-down jump shooter. He has one of the most consistent mid-range jumpers I’ve ever seen. He’s a tough player to guard.”
Anderson even took it on step further.
“He can even shoot threes occasionally, but I don’t think he’ll do it in a game,” Anderson joked.
In Anderson’s case, his ability to rebound the ball has been undervalued. He isn’t known as much of a rebounder and his career average of 4.0 rebounds per game seems very pedestrian but if you consider that he has played just 17.1 minutes per game, it looks a lot better. In fact, Anderson pulled down 5.6 rebounds per-36 minutes last season and grabbed a season-high 8 rebounds in just 16 minutes of action on opening night against the Washington Wizards.
“Growing up, I was always a 5-man, always a low post player,” Anderson said of his rebounding ability. “I didn’t really shoot the ball very much. It wasn’t until high school that I developed that. I’ve kind of been transformed into a shooting big which is fine with me. I like playing like that but I’m comfortable in the post.”
Part of the reason each player has been able to improve the lesser-known facets of their game is because they compete against each other so often and are able to use that to their advantage.
“For example, if you focus on one thing like shooting too much, you might not return to the post as much,” Anderson stated. “You need a good mix of both.”
Anderson is a third-year pro and is just 22 years old while Bass is only 25 and is just starting his sixth year in the league so there is still a lot for each player to learn and plenty of room for improvement. Whether or not either player gets the consistent playing time they desire remains to be seen but one thing is already certain; the battles in practice are going to continue making them better, more well-rounded players.
News & Notes:
- Dwight Howard picked up his third technical foul of the year in Tuesday’s victory over the Atlanta Hawks. Once a player is called for 16 technicals, they must serve a one-game suspension and pay a $2,500 fine.
- Ryan Anderson made his third start of the season Monday night against the Hawks.
- The Magic have won 10 of their last 13 home games against the Hawks. Marcin Gortat compared Atlanta’s struggles against Orlando to Orlando’s struggles against the Detroit Pistons during his first two seasons.
- The Magic have yet to allow an opponent to score 100 points this season or more and are now 132-29 when holding opponents to less than 100 points under Stan Van Gundy.