Anthony Tolliver played three minutes in the Charlotte Bobcats opener against the Houston Rockets, then zero next game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then he played 27 versus the New Orleans Pelicans.
He played three minutes Nov. 11 against the Atlanta Hawks, then 26 minutes two nights later against the Boston Celtics. He never played in back-to-back games against Milwaukee and Miami, then played 26 against the Dallas Mavericks.
This yes-no-yes-no pattern tends to throw off most NBA players. Its what Tolliver has grown accustomed to over four-plus pro seasons. Its become his NBA "skill," and thats part of why the Bobcats signed him as a free agent over the off-season.
"He knows who he is," coach Steve Clifford said Monday. "There are not many guys who can not play every night, and still play well. Thats Anthony Tolliver."
This sounds like no big deal: If youre an elite athlete, making millions of dollars over your career, why would you not be ready no matter how long its been since the coach called on you to contribute?
But thats not how it works. Athletes and this isnt so different from the rest of us are creatures of habit. If youre used to a certain rhythm, whether it be starting or coming in five minutes into a game or whatever, you prepare accordingly and develop a pattern.
For the 6-8 Tolliver, who plays both small and power forward, there is no pattern. Hes been smart and adaptive enough to accept that.
"Coach told me he wanted someone who could play multiple positions, and play at the drop of a dime. Its a skill. Something Ive tried to develop," Tolliver described. "Its an attitude thing, too. If you prepare to play a lot, and then you dont, it messes with your mind.
"So for me, I just have to be adaptive. I prepare as if Ill play a lot, but if I dont, then Ill help along the bench, giving encouragement."
Lately circumstance has made Tolliver more than towel-waver. He started against the Golden State Warriors on Monday because small forwards Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (broken hand) and Jeff Taylor (inflamed heel) were both out.
Point guard Kemba Walker singled out Tolliver for praise for how well he gave help defensively against the Warriors, while still getting out to his man. Hes more a power forward who can fill in as a small forward than a small forward. But the key word is "adaptive."
"I dont think I ever adapted to it until middle of last year, said Tolliver, who was then playing for the Atlanta Hawks. Thats when Tolliver realized embracing the label "Utility guy" could enhance his career.
"For me, it took a long time to adjust to not knowing when youre playing and shifting positions. Its a big change, whether youre playing the (power forward) or the (small forward)."
But, hey, its kept him in the league when players chosen in the lottery are long gone. And Monday it earned him a start.
Wednesday against the Orlando Magic? Who knows? But Tolliver has learned to adapt.
Bonnell: (704) 358-5129; Twitter: @rick_Bonnell