Anthony Tolliver is the Charlotte Bobcat with the high socks and the low profile, the one everybody calls “A.T.” when he drains a 3-pointer.
That’s what Tolliver, a 6-foot-8 forward, does for Charlotte. Of his 300 field-goal attempts this season, 240 have been 3-pointers. That works out to exactly 80 percent of his shots.
“I know I can do more,” Tolliver said. “But you have to be able to fulfill a role, be able to humble yourself at all times and be able to play team ball.”
Tolliver certainly can do that. His road to Bobcats sharpshooter has been convoluted. On Monday, he gave me the elevator version of his life since he graduated from Creighton with a finance degree – and a 3.53 GPA – in 2007.
OK, take a breath:
“My first few years I was cut – a lot. Undrafted. Went to training camp with Cleveland, made the team but then got cut. Went to the D-league. Went overseas. Signed with San Antonio, was with them for half the season. Got cut. Went to the D-league. Got a 10-day contract. Got cut. Went to the D-league. Went overseas. Came back. Went to Miami. Got cut. Went to the D-league. Got called up. Been in the league ever since.”
So something like the fifth time was the charm?
“Something like that,” Tolliver said. “I could easily have given up early, but that’s not my style. I’m a hard worker. I know that if it’s up to me, I’m going to make it happen.”
The Bobcats are the sixth NBA team Tolliver, 28, has played for, and that doesn’t even count the three teams he played for in the NBA’s developmental league. He has played on both sides of the country (Portland and Charlotte), in warm and cold places (Golden State and Minnesota) and for teams with great and lousy NBA fan bases (San Antonio and Atlanta).
For Charlotte, Tolliver is a backup at small forward and power forward. He has to be ready to play all the time, even though sometimes he doesn’t play at all. In last week’s four wins, he played 16, 23, 21 and zero minutes.
“He’s the best,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said of Tolliver. “When he doesn’t play, he’s right in here the next morning. He just understands this league and what he has to do to stay ready. He’s been unbelievable. Whether he’s playing six or 24 or 18 minutes, you get his best. He’s had a terrific year.”
Tolliver made 10 3-pointers in the three games in which he played last week, and he is tied for 11th in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage, at 41.7 percent.
You know who is in 10th place at 41.8 percent?
That’s not to say Tolliver can shoot the ball with the same proficiency as Curry, who is more closely guarded on many of his 3-pointers. Many of Tolliver’s treys come on wide-open looks, especially when the ball has been thrown low to Al Jefferson and he gets double-teamed.
“I came into this situation knowing what the deal was,” Tolliver said. “Coach was honest with me from the very beginning. I tried to embrace that role. … They needed to space the floor and have shooters.”
As for the high socks, Tolliver started that in Golden State in 2010. He tried a pair of long socks, had a great game and has stuck with them ever since.
Even though those high socks don’t always get off the bench, Tolliver knows he is lucky to be doing what he loves.
“You know what?” he asked at the end of our interview. “I just love this game, man. It’s the only way to explain it. I’ve played thousands of games, and I come in every day with the same exact zeal, the same hunger to get better. It’s been quite a journey. But that hasn’t changed.”
Jefferson averaged 24.3 points and 13 rebounds last week as the Bobcats went 4-0 and clinched the second playoff berth in franchise history.
“He said he feels good,” Clifford said. “So hopefully if he can get through practice (Tuesday) he’ll be able to play.”