When the New Orleans Pelicans decided not to deal power forward Ryan Anderson prior to the February 18 trade deadline, many executives around the NBA were surprised. That’s because sources close to the situation say that Anderson is prepared to hear pitches from other teams as an unrestricted free agent this summer and, at the moment, seems to be leaning toward leaving New Orleans.
Sources close to Anderson have said that the power forward is strongly considering a change of scenery and a fresh start with a new team, and there will be a long list of suitors trying to sign the stretch-four.
Prior to the deadline, sources say that the Pelicans received plenty of calls regarding Anderson. Teams that registered some level of interest in the forward included the Washington Wizards (who eventually acquired Markieff Morris), Detroit Pistons (who eventually acquired Tobias Harris), Cleveland Cavaliers (who eventually acquired Channing Frye), Los Angeles Clippers (who eventually acquired Jeff Green), Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns among others.
Reports have indicated that Anderson will command a ton of money this summer – perhaps even a maximum contract – since teams are increasingly looking for big men who can shoot the three ball and rebound. Not to mention, with the salary cap skyrocketing, as many as 17 teams could have the available cap space to offer a max deal to a free agent (and there won’t be 17 stars available on the market).
For what it’s worth, Anderson is trying not to turn his looming free agency into a distraction and is saying all of the right things when asked about his future.
“Obviously that’s 21 games from now. That’s a situation that I’ll approach then,” Anderson told Justin Verrier of ESPN. “It’s not something I can even think about right now. … Although I know you guys want an answer right now [laughs], but I don’t have one for you. I really don’t. Anything can happen, really. Anything can happen. I’ve never been a part of free agency, an unrestricted free agent. I don’t know what it’s like. I don’t know what it’s going to be like. Don’t know who’s going come into play – at all. It’s definitely something I’ll approach then.”
When asked if he’s talked with Pelicans general manager Dell Demps or executive vice president of basketball operations Mickey Loomis about free agency, he admitted he hasn’t.
”No conversations at all about it,” Anderson told John Reid of NOLA.com. ”Obviously I think they are in the same boat, so many things can happen they may have multiple pieces they are thinking about. A lot of stuff that I don’t know about obviously that they talk about behind closed doors. So I haven’t communicated at all with them.”
The 27-year-old has spent four seasons in New Orleans and this season has averaged an impressive 16.9 points and 5.9 rebounds off of the bench. He has shot 37.6 percent from three-point range on 5.4 attempts per game – the skill that makes him so attractive to teams.
While Anderson has posted impressive numbers during his time with the Pelicans, the team has battled injuries every year. Anderson, Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and others have been sidelined, which hasn’t allowed the group to play to their full potential.
“As a team, obviously we’ve gone through a lot. Every year our group has gone through a lot. I’ve seen everything, everything in these four years here,” Anderson told ESPN. “This was another injury-prone year, another without Tyreke. Eric missed a lot of the year. We missed him here. Anthony’s been out a few games. Jrue. That’s been tough, but that’s something you can’t control.
“And I think that’s the frustrating part about it. You can’t control it. It’s part of the game, guys get hurt. Unfortunately, it’s just another season where we’ve had to fight through that and guys have had to step up. I think a lot of guys have, and guys have played well and played their hearts out. At the end of the day, it would really benefit this group to have everyone healthy. We haven’t really fully seen what this group can do for a full season all healthy together. And that’s tough. Looking back right now, that’s probably the No. 1 thing to look at. We’ve talked about that kind of thing for so long.”
This year, the Pelicans have failed to live up to expectations. They are currently 24-38, which is the fourth-worst record in the Western Conference. Entering the season, this team was projected to emerge as a legitimate contender so this campaign has been a major disappointment.
Anderson’s time in New Orleans has been difficult, so it’s completely understandable if he wants to move to a new city and get a fresh start. However, he also acknowledged that he’s had some great times with the Pelicans too.
“A lot of highs and a lot of lows,” Anderson told ESPN. “Obviously for me personally, anybody that knows my story here, I never could have imagined ever going through different things in my life, obviously. Just personal stuff, the neck injury, a lot of different things.
“For me individually, if I’m going to talk about myself, I grew up a lot over the past four years. You can’t take things too seriously. This game can frustrate you, it can get in your head, but there’s more important things in life and I think that’s definitely what it’s taught me here. But, yeah. This four years have been a big molding point in my life, I think. To really change my mind about how I think about life in general. It’s changed me outside of basketball more than it has inside of basketball.”
This will be a huge summer for Anderson, as he’s expected to receive enormous offers in July. Anderson is one of the more intriguing free agents to watch this summer, since he’s seemingly obtainable and has the skill set to significantly impact a team.
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