Bennett: Back in Business

A.B. Returns to Vegas to Kick-Start His Sophomore Season
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

The “sophomore jinx” can be a scary proposition for some players, but forward Anthony Bennett is chomping at the proverbial bit to get his second season rolling with the Wine and Gold.

Not many No. 1 overall picks started their career behind the 8-ball like Bennett did last season. He missed Summer League and most of the offseason while rehabbing an injured shoulder and missed the first 16 shots of the season when he returned. But, to his credit, the resilient Canadian continued to practice hard and worked himself into shape. By January, Bennett began showing the skill-set that made him the top pick.

His coming-out party might have been a 15-point, eight-rebound performance against New Orleans at The Q on January 28. Two games later, Bennett notched back-to-back double-digit scoring games and the following week, he tallied double-doubles in two of three games – both wins – against Sacramento and Philadelphia. But just as the Toronto native began finding his rhythm, a left knee injury sidelined almost the entirety of his season. Bennett returned for the home finale, netting seven points and seven boards.

Healthy, happy and with a growing confidence, Bennett has been one of Cleveland’s hardest workers this offseason, spending countless hours at the Cleveland Clinic Courts – shaping his body and his game and preparing for a breakout sophomore season. caught up with A.B. after one of David Blatt’s energetic practices at Desert Oasis High School in Las Vegas – not far from where Bennett starred for UNLV – to talk about what he expects of himself and his team in Summer League and beyond …

Through the good and the bad, what did you learn in your first season as a pro?

Anthony Bennett: I learned a lot. I’m just going to leave it at that. I learned a lot, and I just want to use all that for next year. Hopefully, we come out strong with the team. We have a new coach, a couple new guys on the team. So hopefully everything works out.

Do you feel different coming into your second season – more comfortable, confident?

Bennett: I mean, I feel like I understand the process better. It’s a long season, and a lot of practices. You just have to keep going at it every single day, whether it’s on your own time or with the team. That’s what I’ve been trying to do through the summer, just trying to get ready for Summer League.

What have you been up to before heading out to Summer League and what are your plans when it’s over?

Bennett: I’ve been really working out with (Strength and Conditioning Coach) Derek (Millender) along with (Assistant Coaches) Phil (Handy) and Vitaly (Potapenko). Really, all the coaching staff, just trying to get my touch back, trying to lose weight; get back to my playing weight. Stuff like that.

After Summer League, I’m probably going to take a week or two off. My wisdom teeth still need to come out, so I have to do that. Hopefully, it’s not as bad as having your tonsils out. That was terrible.

What is your ideal playing weight?

Bennett: Like around 243. I’m around there right now. I just need to keep at it.

After missing Summer League last year – especially right here in Las Vegas – what do you expect this year?

Bennett: It’s going to be basically like a homecoming, playing at the Mack (Thomas Mack Center) or the Cox (Cox Pavillion). But at the same time, I want to go out there, play hard, win a lot of games – hopefully win the whole thing. And just bond with the guys here.

Gotta ask: How does anyone concentrate on school or athletics with the Vegas Strip constantly looming in the background?

Bennett: (laughs) I was good, man! I was on campus, away from everything. The gym was probably five minutes away. Everything’s right there – and I went out there a couple times, I’m not going to lie to you. But other than that, it was actually just a low-key year.

You’ve only worked with new head coach David Blatt for a few days now. Early impressions?

Bennett: He’s a good coach. He knows a lot and he’s already put in a lot of things. We haven’t talked too much yet, but he said he’s going to push me to my full potential. And I’m looking forward to that.

Between you, Tristan and now Andrew Wiggins, you’ve turned the Cavaliers into Canada South. Who’s going to be the top pick from Canada next year?

Bennett: I don’t know who’s going to be next; it’s going to be a toss-up. We have a few guys on the come-up, a couple guys just went to, I think, Colorado. And I think our Under-17 national team just finished well. And I think there’s a couple guys on that team that, if they work hard, can get to this level.

Have you thought about your sophomore season or are you just focused on Summer Leauge?

Bennett: My focus right now is Summer League. Right now, I just need to focus on the task at-hand.