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For the Clippers' Alan Anderson, basketball isn't just a job — it's been a journey

For the Clippers' Alan Anderson, basketball isn't just a job — it's been a journey
Clippers forward Alan Anderson drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell during a preseason game Oct. 5. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

His basketball odyssey has taken him across the United States and to numerous destinations in Europe, his dream of playing professional basketball always pushing Alan Anderson to persevere when doubt and disappointment could have derailed his career.

Anderson now makes his living with the Clippers, his fifth NBA team over an eight-year career. Even after signing with the Clippers as a free agent, Anderson has been tested again in training camp.

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He came here to compete for the starting small forward position, but Anderson recently missed one practice after he experienced soreness in the left ankle on which he twice had surgery last season in Washington.

But Anderson remains patient, knowing he has overcome considerable odds on his journey after going undrafted following four years at Michigan State.

"You've got to push yourself harder than anybody else can push you," Anderson said. "Of course, you've got your coaches telling you what to do, but you've got to do a little more. You've got to dig a little deeper because there's always going to be doubts.

"There's going to be a bunch of doubts, even within your friends and family. If you really believe in yourself and really get after it and put the extra time in, it's just a matter of time. You've just got to be ready when your time is called."

The call Anderson was hoping for on draft night in 2005 didn't come.

He signed with Charlotte as a free agent, spending two years there before globetrotting became his life.

It began with a stint in the Italian League for one season. His travels took him to the Adriatic and Israeli leagues.

He still yearned to get back to the NBA, so Anderson came back to the U.S. and played for New Mexico of the NBA's Development League in 2010.

A few months later, he was back in Europe playing in the Spanish league, where he was voted the most valuable player of the Spanish Cup in 2010-11.

Five years away from the NBA left Anderson determined to return.

"When I left the league after those first two years and I chose to go overseas, I wanted to get back to the NBA after my first year in Italy," Anderson said. "But it was like, 'It ain't my time. I've got to take my European experience and make that my NBA.' Once I made that my NBA and embraced that and embraced their culture and their style of play over there, then I played a lot better."

Anderson was ready to come back to the NBA, but the lockout in 2011 stalled that ambition. So he went  to China for the 2011-12 season before heading back to play for Canton in the D-League.

His patience paid off when the Toronto Raptors signed him to a 10-day contract on March 26, 2012.

"He came in my first year from Europe and he was hungry, trying to make it," Toronto Coach Dwane Casey said. "I think every team in the league would like to have Alan. I know we were interested in him this summer, but the Clippers got him."

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Anderson's basketball voyage  included a two-year stop in Brooklyn after Toronto. Last year, Anderson played for Washington.

That showed Clippers Coach Doc Rivers how committed Anderson was to his craft.

"He's tough, he's a grinder," Rivers said. "The fact that he was able to come back from overseas and have a productive NBA career tells you where he's at."

Now, after averaging 7.8 points and shooting 34.5% from the three-point line during the first seven years of his NBA career, the 6-6 Anderson is in a battle on two fronts.

He's trying to win the starting small forward position over Luc Mbah a Moute and Wesley Johnson. Anderson started Monday night against Utah, scoring three points.

Anderson, who'll turn 34 on Sunday, understands that trying to get over his ankle injury  is another hurdle to clear.

"There have been forks in the road," he said. "It's just another obstacle to get over. It doesn't take nothing but hard work. That's what I'm used to. I just keep working and working."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BA_Turner

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