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Sunday, March 22, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mavericks' Trade For Anstey Starts Paying Dividends

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

DALLAS - In January, Mavericks Coach Don Nelson was so worried Chris Anstey would get embarrassed on the basketball court he often decided not to play him.

Less than two months later, Anstey has been shaming a few defenders around the league.

In the nine games before Thursday's contest with Golden State, the rookie from Australia averaged 14.6 points and shot 52.2 percent from the field. That includes the career-high 26 points he scored - on 11 of 15 shooting - in Tuesday's 99-93 victory against Boston.

The recent surge by the Aussie is what Nelson said he saw in Anstey when he negotiated a trade on draft day to acquire the 7-footer from Portland.

The Mavericks drafted Kevin Cato but traded him to the Blazers for Anstey. The move was not met fondly. Especially since Anstey skipped training camp so he could play in the playoffs with his South East Melbourne team.

For the first four months of the season, Anstey looked weak and clumsy, and played as though basketball was foreign to him. Now, he and Nelson are laughing all the way to the basket.

"I like to look like a genius," Nelson said. "I've been kicked in the teeth enough around here."

Anstey said he wasn't bothered when he heard folks saying the Mavericks made a mistake in acquiring his services.

"I changed clubs once in Australia, and it was the same sort of deal," Anstey said. "Everybody expected someone better than I was, and they recruited me as a development player, and that's what the Mavericks did.

"I knew it was going to take some time. From Day One I said that whatever I was at the start of the year I was going to be better at the end, and I think I've improved since I got here."

In Australia, Anstey spent 95 percent of his time playing center. Now the majority of his time is spent playing power forward. He also can often be seen diving for loose balls and zipping up and down the court at a fast pace.

"He knows his niche, and Don Nelson is letting him play his style," Mavericks center Eric Riley said. "Any time you have a coach who lets you play your style, you'll do better and you'll succeed."

A.C. Green also has been impressed with the way Anstey's game has flourished of late.

"Chris has played well in practice and he's starting to play well in games," he said. "He's obviously just starting to understand a little bit more about what's asked of him, and he's getting a chance to play. With that combination, you can get a lot of productivity out of a guy.

"He's been waiting to do this, but there just hadn't been the level of confidence or support that he's needed overall. Now he's getting those things."

Nelson now talks of Anstey as if he should have been a lottery pick last summer instead of the 18th pick. He added that Anstey's play makes up for losing the No. 6 pick in last season's draft in the questionable trade with Boston for center Eric Montross.

"He's everything we thought he was going to be, and more," Nelson said. "We're really happy with him.

"We are sort of behind because of the No. 6 draft pick we didn't get last year. But he puts us ahead of schedule because we think he's up in that category."

Just getting a chance to settle down has been a comfort for Anstey. He said: "Just moving away from home, learning my way around town, getting a house organized, getting a car organized. . . . just things that I've had set up for years back home, I've had to go and do myself. And that takes a lot of your time and energy, and you really can't get enough rest."

Anstey says he studies and welcomes playing against players like Shaquille O'Neal.

"The more often I can play against those good players, the quicker I'm going to learn," he said. "If I can pick up one thing every so often and just keep adding it to what I know, it's just going to help me in the long run . . . .

"My confidence has increased, and the coach's confidence in me has increased."

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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