By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
INDIANAPOLIS: Anthony Bennett picked the steal from Luis Scola and began charging down the court, a rookie determined to finally break the slump. The lane was open, the basket was right in front of him. This most certainly would be the moment Bennett broke his drought.
He flipped the ball up, watched it dance on the rim … and trickle out. It was his third miss of the night, his 11th consecutive miss to start the season and it left Bennett to shake his head in dismay as the Pacers converted with a 3-pointer from Paul George at the other end of the floor.
Bennett later missed his final shot of the night — another 3-point attempt — and enters today’s home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in an 0-for-12 shooting funk to start the season. His only points came on two free throws in the season opener.
“I just feel like there’s a lid on the basket,” Bennett said. “Three games and no shots went in, but I just have to keep working. I made up for it with the rebounding.”
Indeed, Bennett grabbed six rebounds in Saturday’s loss at Indiana, but sooner or later the shots have to start falling for the No. 1 pick in June’s draft. He isn’t exactly helping himself with some of his shot selections, either.
His first shot during the preseason was a 3-pointer seconds after entering, then he did the same thing in last week’s opener. Seven of his 12 shot attempts have been 3-pointers, which is why coaches and teammates alike have told him to make it easier on himself and look for easy looks around the rim.
It’s hard to get any easier of a look than the blown layup late in the third quarter, but that didn’t fall, either.
“If I were him, I’d probably be frustrated,” coach Mike Brown said. “He has to stay at it and hopefully it’ll break for him soon. Hopefully next game.”
Bennett averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds last season and shot 38 percent on 3-pointers. He is also a terrific finisher around the basket, but hasn’t really shown that yet.
Asked if he has ever scuffled this badly, Bennett quickly let out a dramatic, “Noooo. Never.”
“I also went through surgery and stuff,” he said. “This is all kind of new to me. Basically this is my 11th game coming back off of surgery, haven’t played the whole summer. It’ll come to me.”
Bennett has looked overwhelmed at times by the adjustment from college to the pros, particularly since he spent one season in college and played in the Mountain West — not exactly the ACC or Big Ten. Tristan Thompson has said a couple of times the basketball coaching in Canada isn’t on par with the coaching in the United States, meaning this could very well be the first time in his life Bennett is really being taught the game. And it’s coming at him like a 100 mph fastball.
“This is a huge transition from college to pros,” he said. “I have to get familiar with my teammates, the pace of the game, the coaching staff … everything.”
Bennett flashed his potential with a dazzling 16-point fourth quarter in the second preseason game against the Orlando Magic. He used a combination of spin moves, fadeaways and 3-pointers to outplay No. 2 pick Victor Oladipo in the game’s final minutes.
Unfortunately, that’s been the highlight of his season thus far.
He isn’t the only one struggling. The Cavs entered Saturday’s game at Indiana ranked 27th in shooting at 39.9 percent, then shot just 35 percent in the loss to the Pacers. The entire team is looking for an offensive rhythm right now.
“Everybody is saying keep my head up,” Bennett said. “First year in the league, it’s going to be difficult. It’s frustrating at times, but you just have to get the mental part down. I’ve got 79 games to go.”
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.