Anthony Tolliver may not be one of the more heralded free agent signings of the off-season, according to the national media, but he may make a substantial impact for the Phoenix Suns.
Tolliver is a 6' 8" 240 lb forward, and a six-year NBA veteran originally from Creighton University. However, our own Jacob Padilla already did a fantastic job of detailing his history and identifying how he fits on the Suns team, so I won't rehash those details here.
Instead, during today's introductory press conference, Tolliver was able to answer some of the questions from his own perspective about how he envisions fitting in with the Suns, why he chose to play in Phoenix, and the journey he took to get here.
"I've been a lot of different places and played for a lot of different teams, all over the world," Tolliver said. "To get signed and play for a team like the Phoenix Suns, where I feel absolutely wanted and needed to help this team win is just a great feeling."
Anthony went on to answer the question of what Suns fans can expect to get from him as a player. "You're going to get a hard worker and someone who's never going to take a second of this for granted. I appreciate the opportunity for the bottom of my heart."
Still, Tolliver understands that this is a business, and that situations can change at a moments notice. But he's looking to make the most of his time in Phoenix, and hopes to make this a lasting relationship. "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." He continued, "But I'm 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."
Anthony also provided a very honest answer on why he chose Phoenix instead of other potential destinations. "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're looking at you and a couple other guys and we will see what happens", they said, ‘we think you're our guy.’"
Tolliver continued, "When someone says that, as simple as it sounds, as a basketball player your confidence goes up automatically. Coming into this situation knowing they were seeking me out specifically it really meant a lot to me."
Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek also expounded on the targeting of Tolliver to Dave King, "Obviously, the LeBron possibility took center stage. But once that was out of the picture, Ryan moved on things quickly. He had his guys that, once we lost Channing, to fill in and really add."
"It was quick," he added. "(Ryan) called me, he said ‘what do you think about these guys?’, I said I like them, next thing I know we got them. Ryan moves quickly when he knows guys are good for our team."
Suns President Lon Babby also expressed to Dave King how important signing Tolliver was to their plans. "Once we lost Channing, we had a list of potential replacements lined up and Anthony was at the top of the list. As soon as that decision was made, we began to pursue him."
So what made him one of the top priorities?
What Tolliver brings to the Suns first and foremost is his shooting. The reason he was brought in is to help fill the vacancy that was created once Channing Frye decided to sign with the Orlando Magic. Overall, he is a career 35.2% three-point shooter in the NBA. But he has increased his percentage in each of the last three years, focusing more on his shooting and posting an impressive 41.3% from beyond the arc in Charlotte last year.
"Going back to high school and college," Tolliver said. "I kinda knew I wasn’t going to be a 7-foot player, but I also knew with how the NBA was going, no matter how tall I was, that it would be a valuable thing to be able to shoot." "In college, they stuck me down on the block because I was the biggest guy on our team. But in the off-season, that's not what I worked on...I worked on shooting and being able to stretch the floor."
He continued, "This plan to make it to the NBA, was based upon me being able to shoot. Obviously it took me a couple of years to really get it going once I made it to the NBA, and be able to do it at a high level. Like I said, it has changed my life to be able to make it to the NBA because I am an undersized four, and I knew I had to 100 percent be able to shoot the ball."
And that is likely how the Suns plan to use him, as an undersized, but skilled power forward who can space the floor and make teams pay from deep.
Hornacek echoed this plan in an interview today with Dave King. "I think it will strictly be four. That’s what he’s used to working with and in our offense we need that guy, that four who spread the floor and shoot threes. He’s not a afraid to battle. He’s done it his whole career."
Anthony also identified what he plans to continue working on during the off-season.
"I'm going to continue to work on everything, you have to be a complete player to play in this league. Obviously I'll continue to work on my craft, which is shooting, but to be able to come back and show people some different things," he added. "A lot of people think I just catch and shoot it, which is a big part of my game, but there is a lot more I can bring to the table. I'm looking forward to being able to show the coaches and everyone here that I'm more than just a catch and shoot player."
Exclusive BSOTS Interview With Anthony Tolliver:
On filling the void left by Channing Frye
"Playing against the Suns for the last however many years I've played against them, Channing's been a huge piece of that the last few years. I just remember how difficult it was playing against him in this system with these guards. When you add Isaiah Thomas to the mix, I just don't see how we can't be successful."
"Picking and popping is probably my biggest asset as an offensive player, and I know that's what (Frye) fed off of in this system. Just the ability for me to come in and use that, and use it to be able to also open up Isaiah (Thomas), Goran (Dragic), and Eric (Bledsoe) if he comes back it will be great. It will be a great fit for everybody. I'm not one that really cares about scoring a whole lot of points, all I care about is winning. So being able to use what I do to help the team win is all I care about."
On what he can provide beyond his ability as a stretch four
"I think I can put the ball on the court a little bit better than most people think. The last few years I've played at the small forward position. I'm big for a small forward, but not so big for a power forward. But I use my speed and quickness against the power forwards and am able to get to the basket and finish around the basket a lot more than I have been able the last few years playing at the three. Having some of the quicker three men closing out to me I can't really go past them as well. So I kept it pretty simple the past few years and either shot it or passed it. But I just fill a role. If the coach asks me to play the three here that's what I'm going to do. So I'm not saying I have to play the four to be successful. I've shown that I can be successful at multiple positions and guard multiple positions as well."
On whether the Suns' up-tempo style of play could help open up more opportunities for him as a player
"Absolutely. I pride myself on being in great shape, and always beating my man down the court most of the time, and using my speed, quickness, and length on the offense and the defensive end. Getting up and down the court it's hard for a team to set up the defense. If you have a little bit more size than I do, now I can just use my speed and quickness to beat you down the court and get up a shot before you even get back. I feel like this system fits what I do perfectly, and I just can't wait to get started."
Anthony Tolliver seems like a great fit for the Phoenix Suns, who pride themselves on players who give their all night in, night out. Tolliver also seems like he will be a great addition to the locker room, where the team chemistry they built last season seemed to be one of the key components of their success.
Whether or not Tolliver can replace a crucial component like Channing Frye remains to be seen. However, he certainly seems to posses the right attitude, team-first mentality, and will to win in order to do so.