PHOENIX — As the saying goes, Anthony Tolliver has “been around the block.”
The newly signed Suns forward has took quite the journey to Phoenix. The four-year forward out of Creighton went undrafted in the 2007 NBA draft, forcing him to play in the D-League and Germany for the 2007-08 season. He got a try-out with the San Antonio Spurs in 2008 and was able to play in 19 games that season, while additionally appearing in the D-League and overseas in the Turkish league.
Tolliver was left without a team to begin the 2009 season before landing a 10-day contract with the Portland Trail Blazers in December. He appeared in two games before going back to the D-League. In January he signed a deal with the Golden State Warriors and has not left the NBA since, playing for four different teams.
Last week Tolliver signed a two-year, $6 million contract with the Suns to play a role off the bench. He is hopeful that this stay is longer than his past.
“Hopefully this is a really long chapter,” Tolliver said. “That’s the plan, to make this a two-years-plus chapter in my story.
“At the end of the day, I am a person that takes the punches as they come. Whenever I get an opportunity I take advantage of it and work as hard as I can to make it the best I can. If I have to move on I move on and if I get to stay, I stay. I am not one to dwell on old stuff, I am all about what is going to come this next year. I am a Phoenix Sun and that is all I am worried about.”
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Tolliver has averaged 6.1 points and 3.7 rebounds through 307 NBA games over the course of six seasons. Last year in Charlotte he averaged 6.1 points per game and shot a career-best 41 percent behind the three-point line. His long-range accuracy is 17 percentage points better than his numbers two seasons ago and 8 percent better than a season ago.
The undersized 6’8″ power forward has constantly worked on his jump shot since entering the NBA and is now reaping the rewards for his hard work.
“It was something from going back to high school and college,” Tolliver said. “I kinda knew I wasn’t going to be a 7-foot type of player, but I also knew with how the NBA was going that it would be a valuable thing to shoot.”
“In college, they stuck me down on the block because I was the tallest guy on the team. But in the offseason, I would work on shooting and being able to stretch the floor. This plan to make it to the NBA, everything was based upon me being able to shoot. It took me a couple of years to get it going once I made it to the NBA. Like I said, it has changed my life to be able to make it to the NBA because I am an undersized 4 man, and I knew I had to 100 percent shoot the ball.”
The Creighton star only made 21 three-point shots during his four year college career, which left him with a very weak outside game. Last season in Charlotte was a second breakout year for Tolliver in terms of shooting the ball — in 2010-11 with Minnesota he shot 41 percent as well — and the Suns hope is that they have signed a player that is just beginning to reach his potential. That they have a beneficial scheme to make it work helped them target the big man in free agency.
Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough saw a player that fits the system and a person that will bring a strong veteran presence inside the locker room.
“He is a true professional,” McDonough said. “He has really done a good job kind of evolving.
“He has really worked on his craft and has developed into one of the elite shooters in the NBA. We have heard great things with his professionalism, work ethic and character, and feel like he will be a great fit both on the court and in the locker room.”
Tolliver was a commodity among NBA teams this offseason. As a big man that can shoot, he was rumored to have many options before settling on the Suns. His reasoning for coming out to the desert was simple.
He felt like a wanted man.
“The biggest thing that tipped the scale here was … the open arms, the ‘we want you here’,” Tolliver said. “They were very forward with it. They didn’t say, we are looking at a couple guys and we will see what happens. They said, ‘we think you are our guy.’
“When someone says that, as simple as it sounds, as a basketball player your confidence goes up automatically,” he added. “Coming into this situation knowing they were seeking me out individually it really meant a lot to me.
“And obviously living in Phoenix in the winter isn’t going to be too bad and that was big for my family.”