Bobcats General Manager & Head Coach Bernie Bickerstaff knows there is no substitute for experience when it comes to building a championship franchise.
“There’s nothing wrong with our young kids, they just don’t have the experience,” Bickerstaff said after Sunday’s 97-89 win over Detroit. “I think people underestimate just because a guy is a journeyman or a role player, just how good they really are.”
It was why, when Bickerstaff was looking for a veteran presence to help anchor Charlotte’s expansion franchise, he acquired the services of NBA veteran guard Brevin Knight and forward Steve Smith in the Bobcats first year.
It was why he opted to re-sign Knight and trade for center Jake Voskuhl and forward Jumaine Jones heading into Charlotte’s second season in 2005-06.
It was why one of Bickerstaff’s biggest acquisitions in the summer of 2006 was the signing of 10-year veteran forward Othella Harrington.
It was why when he began his search in November for another vet to stabilize the Bobcats backcourt alongside Knight, Bickerstaff found exactly what he was looking for in free agent guard Derek Anderson.
The 6-5, 195-pounder brought with him an impressive resume when he signed with Charlotte on November 28, appearing in 537 career NBA and averaging 12.7 points, 3.5 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 30.5 minutes, while shooting .408 from the field, .339 from three-point range and .853 from the free throw line.
In 2005-06 he capped off a nine-year career including stints with Cleveland, the L.A. Clippers, San Antonio, Portland and Houston with an NBA title as a reserve in Miami, making him the only player on the Bobcats roster with a championship ring.
“He has been there, and that has been his history,” Bickerstaff said. “(The intangible) is confidence because he has done it, so the difference you see is there is no hesitation with him in what to do.
“We signed him and we anticipated him contributing, and the conversations we had with him prior to signing was his role -- to help the young kids out and to be a calming influence.”
In three games with Charlotte thus far, Anderson has exceeded expectations in the Bobcats backcourt. He’s averaged 8.3 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 17.3 minutes off the bench and been the calming influence Bickerstaff knew he would be.
After admittedly not having any sort of physical contact on the court since the Heat’s championship run ended in June, Anderson didn’t miss a beat in his first game back while drawing the toughest defensive assignment on November 29 in Atlanta.
With the Hawks Joe Johnson coming off a 22-point second quarter and the Bobcats facing a 70-46 deficit with 7:46 remaining in the third quarter, Anderson entered his first NBA game in over five months and drew Johnson as his defensive assignment.
All he did was help hold Johnson scoreless over the next 13:51, sparking a 42-21 Charlotte run to help pull his team within three points before falling 99-90 to the Hawks.
“He just knows how to play. He has been around for a long time, and he understands what we are going to need from him,” Knight, also Anderson’s one-time teammate in Cleveland in 1997-99, said. “I expect him to play hard – that is the one thing DA always did, he always played hard. He may not be your quote-unquote best defender, but he also takes pride in stopping the guy he guards. I expect him to go out there and battle everybody.”
Two nights later, Anderson put up his first double-digit scoring performance with 10 points off the bench in a 121-109 loss in Washington. Another two nights after that he was back at it, playing an integral part for the Bobcats as they put an end to Detroit’s eight-game winning streak. Anderson chipped in 11 points, including a crucial four-point play to put Charlotte up 83-73 late in the fourth, while locking down on the defensive end against the Pistons leading scorer, Richard Hamilton, and holding him to 1-7 shooting in the fourth quarter.
“I am just trying to be smart and trying to be aggressive,” Anderson said. “I don't want (our opponents) to think they can get anything from us. Of course I am not playing 40 minutes so I don't have to worry about my fouls anyway, so my situation is trying not to give up anything easy and playing hard.
“I just want take some of the pressure off of the young guys. I am still getting a feel for everything and what coach wants, but I know these young guys have to have confidence. I want to make sure these guys believe that if you keep working hard you can win a lot of games in this league.”