Last night during a glorious win, there was one negative sub-plot unfolding: Anthony Bennett had another frustrating game. In 18 minutes he went 1-for-6 with eight rebounds and five turnovers. Worse than the stat line was his body language, which seemed to lack confidence. He capped off his evening on the court losing the ball in mid-air as he took it up for what I think was a two-footed jumping dunk. It looked lazy, and Bennett followed it up with an embarrassing glance toward referees seemingly looking for an unearned bailout. The boos rained down on the rookie once again on his home court. Our own Andrew tweeted wondering if maybe it is time for Bennett to get some time in the D-League.
Andrew expanded on the tweet in his Behind the Box Score post.
Bennett had opportunities playing in garbage time, but he committed an offensive foul, turned the ball over a couple times, and missed a dunk. The fans at the Q started booing Bennett in a game in which the team was winning big. Bennett’s body language deteriorated and he was walking dejectedly up and down the court. It was ugly. I won’t condone the fans booing and I would never boo someone who plays for the team I root for. But I also understand the fans’ frustration and I’m discouraged by Bennett’s reaction to it. I still think the Cavaliers should send Bennett to Canton for a while and let him get his confidence back against lower competition and away from the wrath of the fans.
The idea is starting to pick up steam in other parts of the media as well. Ken Berger from CBS Sports weighed in on the topic as well.
The most obvious reason for not subjecting Bennett to a D-League stint is the embarrassment factor. No top overall pick has ever competed in the D-League; the highest-drafted player to appear in a D-League game was 2009 No. 2 pick Hasheem Thabeet. But other top picks have toiled in the development league, including Shaun Livingston (No. 4 in 2004), Johnny Flynn (No. 6 in 2009) and Joe Alexander (No. 8 in 2008). Alexander is here in Reno, coincidentally, with the Santa Cruz Warriors, but is injured.
The point is, couldn’t Bennett, 20, benefit from a developmental stint in a league where he could get consistent practice reps and meaningful minutes? Especially now, when the Cavs’ acquisition of Luol Deng in Monday night’s trade with Chicago presumably will push Bennett even further onto the fringe of the Cavs’ rotation?
I hate to dwell on negative things after a game where so many things went right for the Cavaliers, but it’s really something that needs to be addressed anyway. Anthony Bennett is not getting better right now, and worse yet, his body language appears to be that of a frustrated basketball player. For Bennett that frustration appears not to be heading toward a breakout game, but instead into a much larger snowball.
We’ll see what the Cavaliers decide to do, especially in light of the Luol Deng trade and how that will impact the rotations and playing time. At this point, the D-League option doesn’t seem all that bad and it probably couldn’t be more embarrassing than the performances that are leading to home court boos.