Sacramento Kings

James Anderson quietly impresses Kings with steady play

Kings guard James Anderson (5) walks off the court after the Kings 95-92 victory against the San Antonio Spurs during their preseason game on Thursday at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.
Kings guard James Anderson (5) walks off the court after the Kings 95-92 victory against the San Antonio Spurs during their preseason game on Thursday at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. hamezcua@sacbee.com

The addition of shooting guard James Anderson to the Kings’ roster over the summer was a lot like his play has been through training camp and the preseason.

Not much was said about it. Perhaps not much was expected. Anderson was a first-round draft pick by San Antonio in 2010, 20th overall. But after dealing with injuries early in his career, Anderson had been on two other teams and even had a brief return to the Spurs before being waived again. He also had played in the NBA Development League and spent last season playing in Lithuania.

Plus, the Kings still had Ben McLemore and signed Marco Belinelli as a free agent to play guard.

But quietly, Anderson has caught the attention of teammates and coaches. Anderson started Thursday’s preseason game against San Antonio. Anderson’s final line won’t blow anyone away: four points, two rebounds and an assist. And that’s just fine.

“His numbers don’t tell you how well we think he’s playing,” said coach George Karl. “He just kind of gives you a no-nonsense, low-maintenance type of personality on your first unit. ... I think he’s kind of my insurance blanket right now between (shooting guard) and (small forward). He’s a guy that I trust already. He hasn’t played great, but he’s been solid.”

Anderson was the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year in 2010 at Oklahoma State. But the NBA didn’t go smoothly for Anderson with multiple stops, being cut and eventually ending up in Lithuania playing for BC Zalgiris. He averaged 13.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and was the Euroleague Week 4 MVP.

His numbers don’t tell you how well we think he’s playing. He just kind of gives you a no-nonsense, low-maintenance type of personality on your first unit. ... I think he’s kind of my insurance blanket right now between two and three. He’s a guy that I trust already. He hasn’t played great, but he’s been solid.

Kings coach George Karl on shooting guard James Anderson

That stint helped Anderson’s game after he was out of the NBA following the 2013-14 season with Philadelphia.

“Just gaining my confidence back as far as knowing I can make plays,” Anderson said. “And working on my offensive game and stuff that I had to do over there that I didn’t do when I was here.”

Anderson’s overseas stint was just for a season. He believed that was how long he’d be there, too, if he played well.

“I know what I’m capable of and how hard I work,” Anderson said. “So I figured if I continued to do what I was doing, then an opportunity would open up for me, and I’m glad it was here.”

The Kings signed the 6-foot-6 Anderson for more backcourt experience. McLemore is entering his third season.

Karl, however, said Anderson starting Thursday is not an indictment of McLemore.

“It’s all about figuring how the pieces fit,” Karl said. “It’s not about any one individual being judged right now.”

Karl likes that Anderson is vested in being a good one-on-one defender rather than relying on playing passing lanes and going for steals.

“I hate getting scored on, so I take that personal and just try to go (hard) out there,” Anderson said.

That makes Anderson an ideal complement to a lineup that has plenty of scorers but is still searching for a consistent, tenacious wing defender.

I hate getting scored on, so I take that personal and just try to go (hard) out there.

Kings shooting guard James Anderson

Finding that is key for the Kings to improve this season.

“(Anderson) kind of gets lost in the shuffle,” said forward Rudy Gay. “But he’s definitely one of those players that we need. He’s a guy who comes out and guards anybody, knocks down shots and is very athletic, sneaky athletic.”

Added Gay: “He does a lot, and he makes everyone better, and you need those guys to go out there and play with effort.”

Three Sacramento assistants were with the 76ers, and Karl’s system is similar to Philadelphia’s. But Anderson said his time there has not given him an edge.

Anderson played in the summer league with the Kings to re-acclimate himself with the system, which helped a little.

“With so many new faces, it’s kind of a learning process for me as well,” Anderson said. “It’s mostly just reading guys and learning how to play off them.”

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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