April 23, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
47°F

Cavs: Bennett hopes to snap drought

INDEPENDENCE — No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett is going to make a shot this season. The question is when.

Through the first four games of his NBA career, the 6-foot-8, 259-pounder is 0-for-15 from the field. Eight of his misses have come on 3-pointers, a number of which haven’t been close.

Cleveland rookie Anthony Bennett is still looking to make his first regular season field goal. (AP PHOTO)

That makes Bennett just the fifth rookie since 1985 to go without a field goal over his first four games while averaging at least five minutes a night.

“He’s one year out of high school,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said Tuesday following practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “He’s the No. 1 pick, so he probably is pressing to a certain degree. It’s probably a little of that and a little of being on the big stage now.”

The struggles are getting to Bennett, who Monday night posted on his Twitter account that it was time to “go ghost” for a while. He had removed the post by Tuesday afternoon, but the solid black screen remained where his picture formerly was.

Bennett did not speak with the media following practice Tuesday, but he still has the complete support of his coach and teammates.

“We just keep encouraging him,” veteran point guard Jarrett Jack said. “We help him understand that you’ve made it this far at this stage of your life because you’re a special player. Don’t ever forget that.

“One thing you have to have in this league is confidence. Once that starts to waver, it’s going to be a snowball effect.”

Bennett’s falling psyche has reached avalanche proportions, but his coach has no plans to remove him from his role as the backup to starting power forward Tristan Thompson.

“There’s probably some (instances) where opponents are looking at him and saying, ‘He’s the No. 1 pick, I’m coming at him,’ or ‘I don’t care if he’s the No. 1 pick, I’m coming at him,’” Brown said. “There’s a lot of things that could be going on.

“The good thing about it is, and I said this at the beginning of the season, he’s a guy who can grow slowly into his role with us. That’s the exciting part about it. I just want him to keep going out and playing and if you can take advantage of your opponent at either end of the floor, go ahead and do it.”

Still far from being in optimum game shape, Bennett hasn’t done that to this point. He’s almost never posted up, and his shots from the perimeter have been rushed and off target.

Brown, however, watched the 20-year-old a number of times at UNLV, where Bennett averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds in his one season, and is fully confident the long-armed and barrel-chested rookie has what it takes to succeed in the NBA.

“At the end of the day, I’ve seen it with my own eyes,” the coach said. “He can score. … Once he figures out how hard he has to play to make it happen on a possession by possession occurrence, then he’ll be good.”

Bennett, who underwent surgery on his left shoulder at the end of his freshman year, didn’t play at all over the summer. That not only hindered his development, but it led to him packing on about 20 pounds, most of which he is still carrying.

Despite that, the Toronto native has been decent defensively and is averaging 3.3 rebounds in 12½ minutes a game.

“I actually thought he was going to struggle defensively, bad,” Brown said. “He’s picked up on the concepts. He’s been tougher and stronger than I expected. That’s a good thing.”

The problems have been on the offensive end, where Bennett looks lost and seems to be playing with no confidence. He is averaging 0.5 points on 2-for-4 shooting from the line, but time is on his side.

“There’s 78 more (games) to go,” Jack said. “There’s such a long way to go. It’s going to be crazy. Once we’re in January and February and he’s being his old self, I’m going to go over to him and say, ‘All that worrying for nothing.’”

Tip-ins

The Cavs (2-2) play in Milwaukee (1-2) tonight, and the Bucks are ailing. Not a real talented team to begin with, Milwaukee was without point guard Brandon Knight (hamstring) and Luke Ridnour (back) at practice Tuesday. Both could miss the game tonight, which would leave the Bucks with a starting backcourt of Gary Neal and Nate Wolters. Bucks big man Larry Sanders has a swollen right thumb, but is expected to play.

l Milwaukee’s most productive player has been journeyman big man Zaza Pachulia, who is averaging 13.0 points and 7.7 rebounds. Neal is scoring 12.7 a night and O.J Mayo is at 12.3.

l The Cavs play in Philadelphia on Friday and host the 76ers on Saturday.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.