Rookie Anderson keeps head up despite lost season

Rookie guard James Anderson earned his second career start Monday, replacing the injured Manu Ginobili in the Spurs’ 100-92 loss to Portland, but he knows not to make too much of it.

Someday soon, perhaps as early as Thursday’s game against Boston, Ginobili will be back in the lineup and Anderson will be back on his customary seat near the end of the Spurs’ bench.

“I’ll just wait for my name to be called,” Anderson said. “I’ll do whatever I can to support the team. If that’s standing on the sideline, cheering my guys on, that’s what I’ll do.”

For the player nicknamed “Big Game James” at Oklahoma State, this new role of glorified cheerleader takes some getting used to. Certainly, his first NBA season hasn’t gone as planned since the Spurs made him the 20th pick in last June’s draft.

Anderson has appeared in 23 games, averaging 3.7 points in 10:41 per outing. He scored five points Monday against Portland, going 2 of 4 from the field.

A stress fracture in his right foot, suffered in early November, cost Anderson 39 games. While he spent 10 weeks in rehabilitation, then another two on Development League assignment in Austin, the Spurs’ season went on without him.

Coach Gregg Popovich’s rotation took hold. Another sharpshooting rookie guard, Gary Neal, has enjoyed a breakout season off the bench.

Suddenly, Big Game James became No Game James.

“It’s a big adjustment, going from playing a lot of minutes to just playing every now and then,” said Anderson, a three-year starter and 2010′s Big 12 Player of the Year at OSU. “It’s just part of it. I’m just learning from sitting on the sidelines, picking up things here and there.”

In a way, third-year guard George Hill can relate to Anderson’s struggles. In another way, he can’t.

Hill remembers how difficult it was to learn the Spurs’ system as a 22-year-old rookie two seasons ago, and that was without a 21/2-month injury to overcome.

“That’s tough, especially with this system,” Hill said. “It takes you a year to really get it under your belt. I think James is coming along. He’s showing he wants to be here, working hard every day. That’s all you can ask from him.”

HOME OF THE FLOPPER: Finally, some of Ginobili’s best work has been officially recognized by a jury of his peers.

In this week’s edition of Sports Illustrated, the magazine anonymously polls NBA players on the question of, “Who is the best flopper in the game?”

Ginobili finishes second in the poll, drawing 18 percent of the vote, behind Cleveland forward Anderson Varejao. Houston forward Luis Scola, Ginobili’s teammate on Argentina’s national team, Lakers guard Derek Fisher and another Rocket, guard Kevin Martin, round out the top 5.

According to the magazine, 12 of the 32 floppers named in the poll played basketball outside of the United States before joining the NBA.

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