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NBA: No.1 draft pick Anthony Bennett slowly finding his feet at Cleveland Cavaliers

Date

Nate Taylor

Top prospect: Cleveland Cavaliers' No.1 draft pick Anthony Bennett.

Top prospect: Cleveland Cavaliers' No.1 draft pick Anthony Bennett. Photo: Getty Images

Anthony Bennett, the NBA's No. 1 draft pick this year, has already had many firsts in these early weeks of the season: his first home game with the Cleveland Cavaliers, his first blocked shot, his first victory.

But there was one first that he needed five games to obtain: his first basket. Entering Wednesday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Bennett was shooting 0 for 15 from the field. But he snapped his ignominious slump midway through the second quarter by swishing a three-pointer - it was his only field goal in five attempts - in a 109-104 loss to the Bucks.

Bennett's struggles had placed him in a category few had entered. He was just the fifth rookie in league history since 1985 to begin a career by not scoring a basket through four games. The two points he previously scored, on free throws, were the fewest from a top overall pick in his first four games since 1966, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"I just feel like there's a lid on the basket," Bennett told reporters last Saturday after the Cavaliers lost to the Indiana Pacers.

Only one other top pick in the last eight seasons has missed 15 consecutive shots at any point, in any season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That player is Bennett's teammate Kyrie Irving, whose drought spanned two games in February last season.

Allen Iverson, who missed 18 straight shots in a game in March 2004, is the last No. 1 pick to miss more than 15 consecutively at one time, according to the NBA.

Coach Mike Brown has not given Bennett, a 256-pound, 6-foot-8 forward, much playing time this season: He was averaging 12 minutes a game before Wednesday. But the 55 minutes he went without a basket is a troubling sign for a team with playoff hopes.

"He's probably pressing to a certain degree," Brown told reporters after the team's practice Tuesday. "So it's probably a little of that and a little bit of being on a big stage now in the regular season with it counting."

Like countless rookies before him, Bennett has forced shots. He had taken nine shots from 3-point range - missing them all - before he made his first.

"At the end of the day, and I've seen it with my own eyes, he can score," Brown said. "Once he figures out how hard he has to play offensively in order for it to happen on a possession-by-possession occurrence, he'll be good."

Bennett, 20, told reporters Saturday that he had never experienced a drought this long.

He has not been burning up the other columns of the box score, either. In the Cavaliers' win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, Bennett, besides going 0 for 3, recorded only one rebound, one steal and one block in almost 10 minutes.

It is understandable if some Cavaliers fans are beginning to feel buyer's remorse. Orlando's Victor Oladipo, this year's No. 2 pick, was averaging 13.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and four assists entering Thursday. Philadelphia's Michael Carter-Williams, taken 11th, was last week's Eastern Conference player of the week. Carter-Williams was averaging 20 points and 7.8 assists through four games.

Bennett was averaging 0.5 points and 3.3 rebounds in the Cavaliers' first four games. At UNLV, where he played one season, he averaged 16.1 points and shot 53 percent from the field.

Before the draft, Bennett was not well known by many fans. When the Cavaliers selected him with the top pick, the crowd inside Barclays Center was stunned. Even Bennett said he was speechless after the pick.

Bennett's season highlight finally came to fruition.

New York Times

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