Anthony Bennett Has 9 Lives. The Rockets Are Next.

The former number one draft pick often summarized as a flat out bust will be in training camp in the fall. Anthony Bennett has been signed by the Houston Rockets, a deal that inspires the wistful who believe in second and third and fourth chances. On a non-guaranteed contract, Bennett will learn an abbreviated D’Antoni training camp offense that loves spacing the floor and draining shots. Bennett has adapted his fragile game, he scores on the perimeter now- not extraordinarily well, but better than before.

Bennett  continues to have resurrection after resurrection but that isn’t the same thing as redemption. At best, Bennett is an afterthought, a garbage time player. Creative minds can look at Bennett and see a load management fill in option on those nights when the sub has to start. He is a sub’s sub which is why the non-guaranteed deal.

It would be something if Anthony Bennett was the mighty and he had fallen low. But he was never that good in the first place. But he still gets chances.

The 2013 pick was the one and down cautionary tale before Markelle Fultz became the one and down cautionary tale. Both Bennett and Fultz are a pair. Inside/outside they were underwhelming to the point you wondered if they needed psychologists. Neither were able to overcome the pressure of being the first pick of a NBA Draft.

For Bennett, everything spiraled after draft night. He was never the prototypical number one pick. He didn’t wow in college. He didn’t possess  a strong work ethic. He didn’t excel at one particular thing, nor was he explosive. He was a reach, and a David Griffin pick who struggled, endured fan criticism, internalized that criticism, and played worse. He had a piss poor work ethic, suffered injuries, was shipped out, was waived, and waived again, then was in the G-league. For the he was still getting paid crowd, um yes, but it was a long way from securing the bag.

After the Cavaliers, Bennett found a temporary home with the Timberwolves. Then the Raptors. Then the Nets. Last year, he was with the Clippers in the G-League. Give Bennett credit. He’s still grinding. He’s still trying to prove he has NBA stuff, that he can make an impact on a team. He hasn’t let failure, or that the NBA doesn’t need Anthony Bennett, affect him. He thinks he has a spot and that this is his turn with the Rockets.

As far as the Rockets are concerned, the Bennett skill set doesn’t matchup. While he plays hard, an improvement from before, he doesn’t have much lateral quickness, post moves, or scoring IQ. He can pull down rebounds but that doesn’t get you in the league. It keeps you there.

The struggle is real. Anthony Bennett is now 25 years old. In hindsight, he should have stayed at UNLV to hone more skills but the money was hard to pass up. Six years later, he has matured in his work ethic and want-to. He wouldn’t have stayed around this long if he wasn’t thirsty. But wherever he goes, because of his flameouts, he will consistently be asked if he loves the game. Does he love it enough to sacrifice everything, to give up everything?

Once a player is branded with the lazy tag, it is hard to overcome. The NBA loves retreads and the Anthony Bennett resume isn’t what is keeping him on the other side of the door. It’s that no one really forgets. The out of shape. The inability to stick to a diet. The passivity. The nonchalance. He has to disprove a negative that has nothing to do with his game but with Anthony Bennett’s desire.

Maturity has him saying and doing all the right things and the best thing about Anthony Bennett at 25 is that he is living the life in front of him, not dwelling on the past. He is very Zen about what has happened to him and, at least in front of media, he doesn’t get caught up in the negativity and all those stories about what a bust he is, all those cutting memes.

It is admirable Anthony Bennett has a sense of self that doesn’t allow him to quit. He keeps it moving as he tries to reclaim his dream. In the short term, he is back.

In the long term? Probably more of the same.

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