Anthony Bennett talks to Steve Nash at Team Canada training camp
Canadian heading to third team in as many seasons
Written by Jose Colorado for On Point Basketball
It’s do or die time for Anthony Bennett’s career.
After a couple of underwhelming seasons in the NBA, the 2013 No.1 overall pick reached a buyout agreement with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night and is now looking for his third team in as many years.
The bright side for the Brampton native is the past few months have been his best run of basketball since turning pro. The bad news: it remains unclear how many NBA teams actually paid attention to his resurgent summer and believe in him moving forward.
“His first year obviously didn’t go well, his second year there was flashes of brilliance but it’s a business and there’s always more talent coming – it happens, said Gary Durrant, a former international player, when talking on On Point Basketball’s Sirius XM Podcast on Wednesday night.
“He’s not the first and I’m sure he won’t be the last but my hat is off to the young man and I just hope he will get picked up somewhere where they can utilize his talent because he is talented.”
One place where that may be is the Portland Trail Blazers. Rip City is reportedly giving serious consideration to claiming the embattled forward in the coming days although the Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Utah Jazz are also in the mix.
Yet continued reports https://twitter.com/ESPNSteinLine/status/646405206897500167) indicate the 22-year-old will inevitably end up with the Blazers.
In Portland, Bennett would have to make his case for minutes, joining a somewhat crowded frontcourt of: Ed Davis, Meyers Leonard, Mason Plumee, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Chris Kaman.
Anthony Bennett guarding Sim Bhullar at Team Canada training camp
The 6-foot-8 big man may be helped by fact that he would be rejoining fellow Canadians, Jay Triano and David Vanterpool, as both serve as assistant coaches for the Blazers as well as the Canadian National Team.
“He’s on the verge of breaking through,” said Triano, the Head Coach of the national team program when asked about Bennett prior to entering the summer. “At the same time I know how hard he has worked in the past year to get his body in shape.”
Under Triano, Bennett thrived at a pair of FIBA-sanctioned competitions this past summer. At the Pan American Games, he and fellow NBAer, Andrew Nicholson, led Team Canada to a silver medal finish. Bennett averaged 15.6 points and 9.4 rebounds in that event.
He then followed suit at the much more competitive FIBA Americas by putting up a respectable stat line of 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in only 16.8 minutes per game on a talented Canadian squad (although those numbers don’t tell the true story as he played limited minutes due to food poisoning in the semi-finals, then only played one minute in the finale, reducing his statistical output noticeably in the 10 game tournament).
Numbers aside, it was clear that for anyone who watched Bennett over the past couple months – something was different.
“Yes, he’s a special player,” said Durrant when asked about Bennett’s renewed skillset. “He’s a very versatile guy and I can see why he was drafted No.1.”
In 109 career games in the NBA, Bennett has averaged 4.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 14.3 minutes per game. He now holds the dubious distinction of being the only No.1 selection to not finish out his rookie contract.
Yet even with all of this in mind, as the NBA advances with new era ‘small ball’ tactics, it would appear as though Bennett’s unique combination of height, strength, ballhandling, shooting range and agility would serve him well moving forward.
And for a player whose career may very well be decided in the next 12 months, this – along with a renewed work ethic – should hold as notes of confidence heading into a make-or-break season.
Photos by Charles Vanegas
Edited by Drew Ebanks