COLUMBUS — Cavaliers power forward Anthony Bennett hasn’t been overly impressive in the exhibition season, but he’s doing much better than Nerlens Noel.
Philadelphia coach Brett Brown dropped a bombshell Monday prior to the 76ers’ 104-93 preseason loss to the Cavs at the Schottenstein Center, saying Noel probably won’t play at all this season.
“He needs to be nurtured this year,” Brown said. “We have an opportunity (to do that). I think we’ve grabbed the thing and put him on a road map that’s good for him and good for the program.”
The Sixers (2-4) took the thin, long-limbed and offensively challenged Noel, once considered the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft, with the sixth choice out of Kentucky. The Cavs (4-2) won the lottery and, after weeks of speculation about whether they should take Noel, Maryland center Alex Len, Indiana shooting guard Victor Oladipo, Georgetown small forward Otto Porter or Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore, shocked everyone by selecting UNLV’s Bennett with the No. 1 pick.
Now listed at 6-foot-8 and 259 pounds, Bennett is overweight, out of shape and has struggled to make shots, but the game appears to be slowing down for him just a bit.
“That’s something me and Coach (Mike Brown) talked about,” he said after finishing with nine points on 3-for-7 shooting, five rebounds, two assists and five fouls in 25 minutes. “It’s not college anymore. I’m not at UNLV, so I don’t have to force things. “You’ve got to value every possession, so I just took my time.”
Bennett had zero points, one rebound and three fouls in nine first-half minutes, but played much better after intermission, when he hit a 3-pointer and threw down a monster slam in transition.
The 20-year-old is shooting just .370 from the field and his 20 3-point attempts tie Kyrie Irving for the team lead — Bennett has made seven — but the rookie no longer jacks up a shot moments after entering the game.
“He didn’t force the issue as much,” Mike Brown said. “He was the beneficiary of being a little patient and letting the offense work for him.”
While Bennett is playing for a team that is now seriously trying to win and might see only limited minutes in the regular season, the 76ers have taken on the persona the Cavs had for the last three seasons.
Philadelphia, which traded talented point guard Jrue Holiday and is considered by many to be the worst team in the league, is in total rebuild mode. The unspoken goal is winning the lottery and taking widely acclaimed Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins with the first pick in 2014.
The 6-11, 228-pound Noel, who underwent serious surgery on his left knee late in his freshman year at Kentucky, hasn’t been completely ruled out for the entire season, but Brett Brown indicated that would likely be the case.
“We don’t want to waste this year,” the coach said. “I think, from all perspectives, it’s an opportunity to break down his shot, really work on his free throws and start a bit from ground zero. He’s bought in. He’s been great.”
No. 11 retired
The Cavs will retire uniform No. 11 in honor of longtime center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who still works for the organization, during a March 8 home game against New York.
“You couldn’t ask for a better person for that to happen to,” Mike Brown said.
Ilgauskas, taken with the No. 20 pick in the 1996 draft, is the franchise leader in games played (771), offensive rebounds (2,336), total rebounds (5,904) and blocks (1,269). He ranks second in points (10,616).
“Zydrunas Ilgauskas is not only one of the best basketball players to ever wear a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform, he is also one of the finest human beings that has ever been associated with the franchise,” general manager Chris Grant said.
Ilgauskas will be the seventh player to have his number retired by the Cavs, joining Nate Thurmond (42), Bingo Smith (7), Austin Carr (34), Larry Nance (22), Brad Daugherty (43) and Mark Price (25).
Brett Brown got to know Cavs point guard Matthew Dellavedova while serving as an assistant coach with the Australian national team and loves the 6-4, 200-pounder.
“He’s a little bit Neanderthal in how he goes about his business, but he’s for real,” he said. “Matthew Dellavedova is a winner.
“He’s not glamorous,” he added. “He’s not pretty. But he’s effective and a helluva teammate. I definitely think there’s a place for him in the NBA.”
Irving (17 points, 12 assists, 5 turnovers), who had five assists in a 31-point first quarter, put on a dribbling exhibition before going past rookie Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse) for a layup.
Later in the same period, Irving put a fake on rookie Rodney Williams that caused the Minnesota product to fall flat on his can.
“I thought he was big trying to find his teammates tonight,” Mike Brown said.
Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson (15 points on 7-for-11, 16 rebounds) made back-to-back 19-footers from the top of the key in the fourth quarter. Earlier, he attempted a 16-footer from the baseline and also shot it about 19 feet.
All were taken right-handed, but Mike Brown wanted to talk about the third-year pro’s work on the glass.
“I don’t remember too many times a guy plays 27 minutes and gets 16 rebounds,” he said.
Cleveland rookie Sergey Karasev didn’t play in the second half due to a sprained left ankle. He is listed as day-to-day.
• Cavs big man Henry Sims had 14 points and five boards in 20 minutes and made all six of his shot attempts.
• Mike Brown gave shooting guard Dion Waiters and small forward Earl Clark the night off, with C.J. Miles (12 points) and Alonzo Gee (14 points, 4-for-6 on 3-pointers) getting starting nods. The Cavs were also minus Jarrett Jack (inflamed knee), Carrick Felix (hernia), Tyler Zeller (appendectomy) and Andrew Bynum (knee surgery).
• In addition to Noel, the Sixers were without Kwame Brown (strained hamstring) and Arnett Moultrie (ankle).
• Sixers swingman Evan Turner (14 points), a former Ohio State star, got a loud round of applause during pregame introductions.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.