Two months ago, on November 25th to be exact, I wrote that the Cleveland Cavaliers should disregard history and be the first team to send a No. 1 overall pick to the NBA Development League. After watching Anthony Bennett look like he forgot what basketball was for 11 games, I thought the Cavs needed to do something to save the sinking vessel before it got to be too late. Well–Mike Brown and Chris Grant–it has been 43 games into the Bennett Experiment and he has still been playing below awful. What are you going to do about it?
When I wrote about this two months ago, I was one of the few people crying out for the demotion of Bennett. At the time, he was averaging a whopping 2.0 points, a shade over two rebounds and shooting a white-hot 21 percent from the field. He was totally lost. As the season has progressed, Bennett’s role of riding the pine did not change. His numbers are so hideous that many have a hard time looking at them. When he is occasionally tossed out onto the hardwood, he still looks like he needs a Garmin to find the basket. This is pretty obvious and well documented.
Now, the thought of shipping the rookie south to Canton is gaining steam with journalists, bloggers, and fans. What was once a rather uncommon way of thinking regarding the top overall pick is becoming more mainstream. Friday night after the game against Milwaukee, which Bennett logged five minutes of mop-up time, Kenny Roda had two tweets pertaining to this matter:
After seeing Anthony Bennett struggle in garbage time vs worst team in the NBA, sorry I disagree with Mike Brown&#Cavs,he needs D-League now
— Kenny Roda (@TheKennyRoda) January 25, 2014
— Kenny Roda (@TheKennyRoda) January 25, 2014
Roda mentioned Coach Brown in his first tweet, saying he disagrees with the approach the organization has taken in respects to Bennett. When I first wrote about this, the team had not really addressed the issue at all, but within the past two weeks or so, they have.
As published in Saturday’s Plain Dealer, Coach Brown wants him to remain on the roster for the experience in practice and to hang around the veterans. He believes Bennett can learn and grow as a player from spending time around Cleveland Clinic Courts. Since roughly October, when training camp and preseason games began, Bennett has spent his fair share of time “learning,” yet it has not translated to results during the actual game. His in-game performance has been routinely unwatchable. How much more time are they going to give him before they try something else?
When I was in middle school, I played on the school basketball teams during seventh and eighth grade. Admittedly, I was your prototypical bench warmer for both years. The only reason I played was because each kid was required to see at least three minutes of court time. Now, how does this relate to Bennett? I now know that the only way for me to actually improve as a basketball player was to shed my warm-up shirt and get into the game. I could try and work on remembering the plays during practice or on the defensive rotations, but nothing could properly immolate game experience. I could try and fix my shooting form, but I needed playing time to test it out and see if it’s working. There is no substitute for playing time.
Now that I am on the subject of playing time, I think it is a good time to acknowledge the fact that Bennett is not getting any. Until Friday’s game against the Bucks, he had not taken off his warm-ups in five straight contests. Since Luol Deng joined the team, he has played in only three games. And for the season, he is averaging a meager 10 minutes per game. In the article in the PD, Brown said:
He’s the No. 1 pick in the draft, so he’s going to get plenty of opportunity. I’m going to give him plenty of opportunity. But, as you can see, I’m not going to give him a free pass.
Okay Coach Brown, that is all fine and dandy saying you are going to give him opportunity, except you are not. The numbers indicate that. So instead of sporadically throwing minutes his way, allow him to swap his Wine and Gold warm-up for a Wine and Gold Canton Charge jersey and LET HIM PLAY.
If they are worried about it being an embarrassment to the franchise, I think they are mistaken. Cleveland sports are already at the bottom rung of the sports totem pole in the eyes of the rest of the country. Our city has not had a championship since 1964; it cannot get much worse. We are already getting laughed at for how much he has underperformed. A few more chuckles and laughs at our expense will not inflict much more damage.
I know that the D-League will mean playing against talent that is not necessarily NBA-caliber, but quite frankly, after watching Bennett for 43 games, I am not sure he is even NBA-caliber at this stage in his basketball life. Even more important to this whole equation is that Bennett said he would not mind going to the D-League for a small stint. Now c’mon, please listen to him. Send him to D-League. I am not sure how much more I can take.