NEW ORLEANS — As a child growing up in Sacramento, Calif., Ryan Anderson all but idolized Peja Stojakovic and the European’s ability to sink 3-pointers.
As a city, New Orleans loved watching Stojakovic do the same thing as the Hornets made a run to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and a Southwest Division title.
Now Anderson wouldn’t mind being a bridge between the two.
The 6-foot-10 3-point specialist is in his first year with the Hornets and when asked if he would like filling the Stojakovic role, his eyes glowed with joy.
“I would love to fill those shoes,” Anderson said.
In 2011-12, Anderson averaged a career-high 16.1points per game and show 39.3 percent from 3-point range, making 166 treys.
Anderson was the NBA Comeback Player of the Year in 2011-12 and started 61 games in the lockout-shortened season.
Still, Orlando didn’t have Anderson in their plans and, in the offseason, was happy to ship him to New Orleans for Gustavo Ayon.
Beside the jump in quality food the foodie will get in New Orleans, he’s also excited about being a brick in the foundation of the renewed Hornets franchise.
“This is a team that was excited to bring me in,” Anderson said. “What more could I ask for from a team? Orlando situation, I got traded. They didn’t want me with their system and their buildup and New Orleans does. It’s a situation where I feel really blessed doing what I’m doing and to be here.”
So far, Anderson has had no complaints about New Orleans. In fact, he loves it. From the food and the restaurants to those who greet him around the city, New Orleans has been a refreshing new chapter for the 24-year-old veteran.
This past Friday, he met with fans at Boo at the Zoo. The experience thrilled him and made him appreciated his and the team’s place in the city.
“This is something that’s special,” Anderson said. “It’s special to be a part of this in a city that I’m going to be living and a part of now. Reaching out to the community is the biggest thing we can do as a team. Obviously we’re just a sport. If we didn’t have the community to back us up, we wouldn’t be anything.
“I feel really blessed to be here and be doing what we’re doing. It’s fun to play with the kids and interact with the community and the fans. They’re our biggest resource.”
In six preseason games, he hasn’t set the world on fire, shooting just 32.1 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from 3-point range. But he is averaging 6.8 rebounds per game and is making 92.3 percent of his free throws.
He realizes that it will take a little while for things to coalesce with an extremely young team. The Hornets have lost their past three preseason games by 20.7 points.
“Obviously we’ve got a lot of young guys that are kind of learning this process and learning how to play,” Anderson said. “We’re getting a lot thrown at us for a young group, a group that doesn’t have a ton of experience.”
They’re next crack at a win comes tonight against Houston and then they’ll finish preseason against Miami on Friday. The season opener is Oct. 31 at home against San Antonio.
Regardless of the preseason record, Anderson is confident in the team’s future.
“Just having that experience of playing more games in the preseason is really going to help,” Anderson said. “We want to win games from the beginning. We want to steal some games at the beginning of the season.”
He added, “The more ready we can be. The quicker we can be ready the better we can be. Once we get everybody together and get everybody on the same page and get everybody healthy, the better we’re going to be.
“I don’t necessarily think of it as stealing games, but it’s just a great opportunity for us to show teams what we can do. We are a very talented team.”