By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: Anthony Bennett did not appear in any of the Cavs’ five games before the one Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks, and he has played a total of 10 minutes the past 2½ weeks. Still, there is no plan to send him to the Development League, and he doesn’t appear to be any closer to breaking into Mike Brown’s rotation.
Brown said Friday that the Cavs still believe Bennett is a big part of the franchise’s future, but that first he has to learn to ease up on himself.
“I don’t want him to get down as easily as he gets,” Brown said. “Throughout the course of the game, he’s very, very, very hard on himself. … Things come so fast, people are so talented and work so hard that you have to have a ‘next play’ mentality.”
The organization has not had any serious discussions of sending the top overall pick in the draft last summer to the Development League, Brown said, because he wants to keep him around the team for the scouting reports, the practice plans and the extra work. Brown said Bennett often returns to the Cleveland Clinic Courts in the evenings for extra work with the assistant coaches.
Of course, all of that could also apply to the Cavs’ other rookies, Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix, yet both have been assigned to the D-League multiple times this season.
Brown hinted that draft position has played a role in those decisions. He used the example of second-year players Tyler Zeller (drafted 17th overall) and Dion Waiters (taken fourth overall).
“I’d probably send Tyler down [to Canton] before I sent Dion down,” Brown said before making it clear that neither player was obviously in danger of being demoted. “One guy is the fourth pick in the draft and you have visions of thinking, ‘This guy can help us sooner than later.’
“This guy [Bennett] is going to succeed for us. I want to touch him and feel him as much as possible.”
Asked if Bennett gets more rope for being the top overall pick, Brown said: “He’s the No. 1 pick in the draft. He’s going to get plenty of opportunities. I’m going to give him plenty of opportunities. But as you guys can see, I’m not going to give him a free pass.”
Bennett is averaging 2.4 points and shooting 27 percent — easily the lowest shooting percentage on the team. Bennett conceded his shooting problems have been the most frustrating part of his disappointing rookie season, which is part of the reason he has been working on his form the last week of practice.
“It’s frustrating you take the same shots in college and you make them,” he said. “You take them now and everything is missing.”
He stood about 4 feet from the basket after the morning shoot-around Friday at the Cleveland Clinic Courts and worked on his release. And he enjoyed watching a few of them go in.
“Me seeing the ball go through the hoop a lot more has put a lot more confidence in my shot,” he said. “I have to keep doing it.”
Kyrie Irving will gladly compete again in the 3-point shootout during All-Star weekend. He was officially named a starter in the All-Star Game on Thursday night, joining LeBron James and Shawn Kemp as the only Cavs players voted in as starters.
Irving began Friday shooting just .373 on 3-pointers, which ranks 66th in the league, but he’ll inevitably be asked back since he is the defending champion.
Irving said he wants to win three consecutive shootouts, which is what Larry Bird did by winning the first three competitions.
“He was the main reason I wore my warm-up last year,” Irving said. “Hoping the legend was blessing me and looking on.”
Officer to be honored
Former Akron police officer Russ Long will be honored Tuesday before the game against the New Orleans Pelicans when the Cavs host Law Enforcement Appreciation Night.
Long was considered “killed in the line of duty,” even though his injuries occurred more than 20 years prior to his death. Long was involved in a violent crash in 1991 while his partner drove in pursuit of a speeding motorist. The accident left him in a one-year coma, and when he awoke, he learned he would never walk nor speak again.
Over the next 20 years, he became a symbol of courage to police officers all over Northeast Ohio. He died last summer following a three-month battle with cancer. He was 51.
The Cavs are partnering with the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. A portion of proceeds ($6 from each ticket sold) will benefit the upcoming National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, D.C.