Bennett starts strong as summer soph


VIDEO: Anthony Bennett talks about his double-double in Cavs’ win

LAS VEGAS – David Blatt, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ new head coach, was backed up to the concrete-block wall as far as he could go. A semicircle of media folks, with flip-cams, records and the stray pen and notebook, pressed forward Sunday afternoon at the Cox Pavilion.

Made sense Blatt was in high demand. After all, barely 48 hours had lapsed since LeBron James stunned the sports world with his announcement that he was returning to Cleveland. Andrew Wiggins, the intriguing No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft in late June, had just played his second pro game. Then there was Blatt himself, a rookie in this league after building an extensive and impressive reputation internationally, who just learned he would have the planet’s best basketball player at his disposal.

Only, no one wanted to talk about that stuff. The first three or four questions Blatt took all were about a guy who averaged 4.2 points, appeared in only 52 games last season and missed 145 of the 225 shots he launched.

“What is this, the Anthony Bennett Show?” Blatt said, laughing.

Actually, yeah, it kinda was. Moments earlier against San Antonio’s Summer League squad, Bennett scored 13 points and hauled in 14 rebounds in the Cavaliers’ second victory of this event. In the opener Friday, he scored 15 points with seven rebounds against Milwaukee.

Bennett reined in his shot a little Sunday, shooting 5-for-8 compared to 6-for-16 in the opener. But he still oozed confidence, along with the sweat that glistened off a body in far more professional shape these days. The No. 1 pick in the 2013 Draft has shed 15 pounds, as he tells it, but it actually looks like more; he has leaned down and worked hard to gain definition and more freedom of movement.

“It wasn’t really that tough,” Bennett said. “My body is kind of weird. I can gain weight fast, I can lose weight fast. So it was just me maintaining it. Watching what I eat at night.”

The way he looks and has played so far, if that was the Anthony Bennett who had shown up for training camp in October, the Cavaliers might have been on to something. Then again, they might not have Wiggins right now because a productive Bennett might have meant more victories and fewer lottery balls.

Instead, offseason shoulder surgery wiped out summer league for Bennett and a slow uptick in picking up the pro game and his dubious conditioning ganged up on the regular season. He was a non-factor, nowhere to be found in Rookie of the Year voting or on the all-rookie teams. The meager stats he got were often of garbage time variety.

Everywhere the Cavs went, Bennett said he was doing fine, biding his time, ignoring the critics. But after his happier performance Sunday, he admitted that wasn’t entirely true.

“Most definitely,” he said. “Just putting a lot of pressure on myself. Things weren’t going right for me. Just everything just collapsing, just building up. I got down on myself. I spoke to the coaches, they helped me out a lot. Told me to keep working.”

Those were the Cavs’ old coaches. The new coaches feel the same way – what a shock! – and Blatt, the newcomer, says it is clean slate time all around.

“AB has been good since Day 1, since I came,” Blatt said. “He’s really working hard to get himself in shape. He’s really, really trying to do a lot of different things on the court to help the team win, and not be under pressure to do one thing. … It’s a work in progress but he’s doing a great job and I hope he continues in the same fashion.”

Bennett, a native of Toronto who attended high school in Las Vegas before his single season at UNLV, has plenty of support in the stands. That has boosted his confidence even more.

“I see my high school principal here,” Bennett said. “A couple of teachers here, my AAU coach, a couple of friends. I just feel more relaxed, more calm.”

Calm before a potential storm. James’ return to Cleveland has changed the entire Cavs atmosphere, and a young guy like Bennett – along with Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Kyrie Irving and Wiggins – might find themselves winning more and speeding along their learning curves.

The alternative, though, is that Bennett might wind up instead in a trade package with a couple of those teammates, should Cavs GM David Griffin and Timberwolves president/coach Flip Saunders ever see eye-to-eye on a possible Kevin Love deal.

If that means Bennett is showcasing himself for Minnesota rather than Cleveland, so be it. Showcasing is better than warehousing, which is how his 2013-14 season went.

17 Comments

  1. theholyspectator says:

    cavs got to get k-love man! wiggins could potentially become an all time great, but key word here is POTENTIAL..no one knows if this guy will become as big as people say he is…k-love is already there…a proven nba all star who is hungry for the playoffs and is only what 25,26? he has a good 4-5 years easy. lebron wants rings now…id move wiggins out and get k-love…the cavs would guarantee the east and possibly the finals…a big 3 of lbj, k-love and kyrie? are you kidding me?

    • DRAGONFORMVP says:

      except even an offensively bad team like chicago (who struggled to get past 90 ppg) will rain 110+ points on a kyrie -love team unless they are not on the court together…

  2. umad says:

    That Anthony Wiggins though. (tags)

    • HOBO says:

      Talk about those Cleveland Canadiens. Its like hockey over there. Four Canadians in one team. If only they had Ennis, Stausakas, Joseph, Olynyk, Joel Anthony, Nicholson, and Sacre with Nash as their coach. Thats a scary Olympics 2016 team.

  3. ALM86 says:

    Cavs should trade Wiggins for Joel Embiid or Nerlens Noel. The sixers get what they wanted all season in Wiggins and the Cavs get a young rim protector and rebounder. Philly will have either of the big man and a most need young wing player to play with MCW, while Cavs get a young center and a more balanced young core to go with Lebron. Not bad Starting line-up of: Irving, Waiters, Lebron, Thompson/Bennett, Noel or Embiid/ Varejao

  4. J4CK Nicholson says:

    A starting lineup of Irving at PG, Wiggins at SG, James at SF, Bennett at PF and Tristan at C is not bad especially at East. I don’t think trading young guns for Love is a desperate, nonsense move. I know Love is an all star, but not a championship caliber C. He’s a support PF at best as he’s undersized for a C. Trading for Love will stun the growth of the young players. Be patient Cavs.

  5. ...MN says:

    LBJ – Even if you knew Love was the better prospect (which I am not sure he is versus the guy you picked over Parker) you are just trading for him so he can become a free agent one year earlier – and you are paying 15.5 million for that contract when at the most he’s worth 20M on the open market (not a Lebron 20 M though). The whole point is the number one pick is very valuable because you get a guy at below market rates and you get terms to help keep them being able to restrict them as free agents. I don’t think Love is that great and I think he would have Chris Bosh type numbers if he were with Lebron, but the point is you are giving up a freaking number one pick for a one year effective addition of 4.5 M to the salary cap – that is really, really dumb/desperate/shortsighted to me and don’t know how they could reason to do that. Finally Love is not a real low post threat and he is not athletic or good on defense so I don’t know think he adds all as much as people are thinking, but again its just a one year addition and the going rate for that in the past has been nowhere near a number one pick.

  6. Ric says:

    I am confused of how Waiters, Wiggins and Bennett would get playing time. Waiters is becoming steady, but Wiggins has too much upside for him to be stalled from the bench. Bennett would be a steady back-up at SF or PF. But Cavs are so undersized on those areas. I like Thompson’s work ethic and attitude, but let’s face it, he’s just too small for his position and gets out match most of the times. That’s why the they’re pushing for Love, a legit four with range and can also crash the boards with the best of them. Maybe they can trade Bennett and Thompson, some picks or cash for Love. And Waiters could start from the bench behind Irving and Wiggins. But if Waiters won’t agree to that arrangement, then most likely he’s the one to be shipped off rather than Bennett.

  7. ...MN says:

    Would be incredibly dumb to trade Wiggins for Love although I thought Cavs should have taken Parker. One Love’s numbers are inflated by playing on such a bad team, he’s not an inside outside big who’s much of a force on D, and he’s got one year left on a contract making 15.5 M this year so at most you are trading the # 1 draft pick for a one year discount of 4.5 M against the cap. Seems like utter madness to me, and the stuff about Love being willing to sign long term is irrelevant to the figuring, that could happen just as well or not after next year but it doesn’t make the deal any less terrible.

  8. LBJKIN6JAMES says:

    Its going to be a hard decision for the Cavs to make. Should they trade Wiggins for Kevin Love? I think they should. But if they are going to make a trade, they have to make it now, because once Wiggins starts playing in the NBA and gets exposed as being overrated then Minnesota might change their mind. So i would trade Wiggins for Kevin Love ASAP! Love is only 25 years old, and that would be a filthy big 3 to have with LeBron/ Irving / Love … And you still would have Bennet / Waiters / Thompson

  9. David says:

    Please if you have no idea what your talking about then just don’t post anything. Miami had the second oldest roster in the NBA last year, the Spurs had the six. So just relax and go back to watching power rangers.

  10. underdog says:

    I hope Bennet’s improvement this season won’t be attributed to LeBron.. The kid worked hard for this trying to shrug off the bust label.. Then for people to say that it is because of LeBron will be insulting for his work ethic

  11. LBJ D' GOAT? says:

    LeBrons work ethic as the best player in the game didn’t affect the Heat to beat the old Spurs in the recent finals.

    What I’m curiuos about is will Lebron let the young players of Cavs outshine him.

    • Queirós says:

      Old Spurs? Did you notice that the average age of both teams made the Heat be older?

  12. Cavfive says:

    Let’s just hold up a second and get these players on the floor with Irving and company before we start gutting this team. We have enough pieces to score points. We need a rim protector and I’m fine with going into the season with no Kevin love. The way Bennett has been playing he might the superstar the cavs are looking for. Or may be a trade piece by himself. I’m not a fan of trading the future for Kevin love now. I’ve been hoping Bennett would come around and have been cheering him on since we drafted him. I’m really excited to see him play. Let’s just see what we can do with the players we have. No love in 2014-15

  13. ko0kiE says:

    i hope the cavs don’t trade away all their lottery picks.. everyone (bennet, wiggins, waiters) of them could be a star player in the nba. I’m curious how LeBrons work ethic as the best player in the game will affect them…

    • Doug Rogers says:

      Lebron is a lot more mature than he was when he left Cleveland. All facets of his game have improved as well. The younger players will see this right away when they get on the floor with him and all of them should improve.