By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
While he tries to navigate through what has been a disappointing rookie season, Anthony Bennett has found encouragement from unlikely sources. Namely, some of the league’s top stars.
Bennett has scored in double figures in two of the Cavs’ past four games — the only two times it has happened all season. He fouled out of Monday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks, but scored 11 points and played 26 minutes off the bench, more than any other reserve.
Vince Carter, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are among the league’s past and present stars that have encouraged him in recent days during his miserable rookie season.
“They trash talk me on the court,” Bennett said. “After the game, that’s when they tell me to keep my head up.”
Bennett couldn’t get off the bench a couple of weeks ago, registering five consecutive DNP-CDs (did not play, coach’s decision) and playing a total of 15 minutes during a three-week stretch. But with Anderson Varejao on a 25-minute limit Monday, Bennett swiped Tyler Zeller’s minutes. Thompson shifted to center and Bennett played power forward and Zeller played just three minutes. Cavs coach Mike Brown has complained about Zeller’s interior defense in recent days and said Monday he thinks Zeller gets too upright in his stance at times, which causes him to relax and slow down.
Bennett was the beneficiary Monday. He still committed some silly fouls because he was too aggressive and took bad angles, but he doesn’t seem as jittery or anxious offensively.
“I’m relaxing now. Just going out there and playing basketball,” Bennett said. “Before I was constantly thinking, but now it’s free flow. I know all the plays, so I just have to go out there and play.”
It’s unclear how many minutes Bennett will get once Varejao’s minutes limit is lifted, which could come tonight when the Cavs host the Los Angeles Lakers. Varejao told reporters Tuesday he felt good and his knee wasn’t bothering him, but Brown thought the knee affected him in certain pick-and-roll defenses Monday night.
“I’ve seen him move better,” Brown said. “That’s a tribute to the speed of the game and the fact that it was a leg injury.”
Bennett insists he hasn’t “been listening to all the negative talk” regarding his rookie season. He just isn’t dwelling as much on every mistake like he was earlier in the season.
“I was just worried about making a lot of mistakes, with getting subbed out, all that in the back of my head,” Bennett said. “Now I’m just going out there and giving it my all. Who cares if I get subbed out? I’m just playing.”
Brown conceded after practice Tuesday the season has been challenging for him and something he has never really endured before.
“This is a big challenge for myself and for the team,” Brown said. “Just because of the dynamics and the age of the team, the expectations placed on the team and what we expect from ourselves, it’s something that’s challenging. It’s something I haven’t been through before.”
GM prefers Syracuse star
ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford quoted a general manager Tuesday who preferred fast-rising Syracuse freshman point guard Tyler Ennis over the Cavs’ Kyrie Irving.
“If you were to ask me right now whether I’d take Ennis over Kyrie Irving, I think it’s Ennis,” the GM told Ford. “He does all the things that help a basketball team win basketball games. You can pick him apart on individual flaws, but I would take this kid right now and trust him to run my team. I think there’s very few freshmen you could ever say that about.”
Shortly after the story posted, Irving simply wrote on his Twitter account “#motivation.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.