SACRAMENTO — Ryan Anderson flashed back to one of the happiest days of his childhood as he walked across the Power Balance Pavilion basketball court Saturday afternoon.
It was the day his parents took him, his sister and one of his friends to watch Vince Carter's Toronto Raptors play the Sacramento Kings. Anderson still remembers that his family sat in Section 115, near midcourt, about halfway up the lower bowl.
"I was super-excited to see Vince," Anderson said, a smile on his face.
Today, in the same building, his career might reach an important turning point when his Orlando Magic face the team he rooted for as a kid. Anderson could take one step closer toward becoming the player his coach thinks he can become.
Stan Van Gundy wants to see more from the 23-year-old starting power forward. Although Anderson has made strides on the offensive end of the court so far this season, averaging 17.9 points per game, he still needs to improve on his defense and his rebounding.
Van Gundy's concerns about Anderson's inconsistency came to the fore Friday night after the Magic's 97-83 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
As Anderson struggled with his shooting, going just 2 for 10 from the field, his defense and his rebounding suffered even more. He failed to make the proper rotations on defense on several occasions, and he wasn't aggressive enough on the boards. Afterward, Van Gundy lamented that Anderson "just didn't get in the battle."
Van Gundy said he is not concerned that the criticism, which he intends as constructive, will have an adverse effect on Anderson, who perhaps is one of the most laid-back, easygoing players in the league.
"I think I've been pretty clear to him and to everyone else that I think he's a hell of a player," Van Gundy said Saturday.
"Look, my whole thing with him is I think he's got a chance to be an outstanding player in this league. And to do that, he's going to need to do some of these other things, and what he's doing isn't good enough to get to the level that I think he's capable of getting to."
Anderson's performance Friday bothered Anderson enough that he stopped at Dwight Howard's locker after the game to talk with Howard for about 10 minutes.
Later, Anderson told reporters that he wanted to see what Howard expects from him. Anderson also told reporters that he wanted to tell Howard that he will bring better energy and more aggression in the future.
On Saturday afternoon, as he stood on the court where he once dreamed of playing, he said he has put the loss to Chicago behind him.
"I have to," Anderson said. "There's no point in reminiscing back on a game like that. Yeah, obviously, I could have played better. I could have shot the ball better. I could have played better defense. Everything. But that's the best thing about the NBA: There's another game and there's a lot more games.
"I'll just bounce back."
He should have plenty of support.
Anderson grew up in El Dorado Hills, Calif., about 30 miles to the northeast of Sacramento.
He expects family and friends to pile into the arena today.
He has played in the building before, both in high school and as a pro.
"It's still exciting, it definitely is," Anderson said as he looked around, his eyes glancing at seats he once occupied as a kid.
"You know, obviously, this place had so much energy in it and it had the cowbells and it was so fun to be a part of. I won a state championship here with my high school. So there are a lot of memories in this place. I used to really be in awe of this place when I'd come in here and play. And, now, it just feels familiar."
Perhaps Anderson is ready to turn that corner, after all.
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