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Justin Anderson slept through Sixers trade that sent him to Hawks

Anderson still keeps in contact with former teammates Markelle Fultz and Joel Embiid.

Justin Anderson reacting after hitting a three-pointer last season.
Justin Anderson reacting after hitting a three-pointer last season.Read moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Justin Anderson was sleeping when he was traded from the 76ers to the Atlanta Hawks.

He was in Indiana that July day, rehabbing after surgery on his left leg to address recurring shin splints. Twice-daily massages were required to avoid clotting, and it was during his second massage of the day that he dozed off.

When the massage therapist was finished and washing her hands, she mentioned that Anderson's phone had been making a lot of noise.

"My phone was on vibrate and off to the side and she said, 'Your phone is blowing up. You might want to check it,' " Anderson said after the Hawks' shootaround Monday morning at the Wells Fargo Center, where they will play the Sixers at 7 p.m.

The first person to call after Anderson picked up his phone was his trainer, Drew Hanlen, the same trainer Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz spent time with during the offseason. Anderson answered the video call, and when Hanlen asked, "Are you good?" Anderson assumed he was asking about the rehab.

"I said, 'Yeah, I'm good. I just finished getting a massage, doing my rehab. Everything is good,' " Anderson said. "I thought he was just checking on me, making sure everything was going OK. Then he was like, 'No, dummy. You just got traded.' "

Anderson had been sent to the Hawks in a three-team deal that also sent Carmelo Anthony to Atlanta (he was then waived), Dennis Schröder and Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Mike Muscala to the Sixers.

While still on the phone with Hanlen, Anderson started scrolling through the texts, tweets, and calls he'd received. There were notifications from his friends, family, teammates, members of the Sixers front office, and Brett Brown. Everyone was saying the same thing: Call me.

It was a big departure from the last time he had been traded, when Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle called Anderson into his office and informed him he had sent to Philadelphia.

"This time it was like, while my world was in flames, I was just peacefully resting," he said.

It was just a couple of months earlier that Anderson had called Lloyd Pierce, a Sixers assistant coach, to congratulate him on landing the head-coaching position with the Hawks. Now, his new head coach was the one reaching out.

"He called me and was like, 'Well, J.A. I didn't know I was going to be calling you this soon, but welcome to the team,' " Anderson said of his conversation with Pierce after the trade. "It's been great. … He has the respect of everyone on the team, the organization. He's the ultimate player's coach."

Anderson, Markelle Fultz, and Joel Embiid became really close while Anderson was with the Sixers. There were times during the season that all three were injured or rehabbing and they hung out at one another's houses and watched games or something else on TV. They still stay in contact via text, Snapchat, and Instagram and give words of encouragement to each other. But, as friends do, they also give each other a hard time.

"Jo is Jo. He's always gonna talk trash," Anderson said with a laugh. "He talks about how he thinks [the Hawks] aren't good, and I'll make sure my team knows that before the game tonight."

Anderson is still working his way back from the offseason surgery and hasn't played yet this season. He recently was cleared to practice and is hoping to return to the court in November or early December.