In a Darwinian survival of the fittest chess move- or survival of the most talented to be more accurate- beleaguered Anthony Bennett was waived by the Phoenix Suns. He was trying to make a comeback after a career that has flailed, been broken, rarely showed glimpses of special, taken him to the east and west and Canada, even overseas. Bennett has been persecuted for a crime he didn’t commit but he took advantage just the same so he isn’t an innocent bystander. Still, he didn’t draft himself number one. Bennett has been persecuted for a crime we all understand. He thought he was better than he actually is. But at the end of the day, professional sports is about achievement, talent and versatility. The end justifies the means if the end is a player who can impact a game. Anthony Bennett cannot. And so he is on the outside once again. No one’s hero.
Drafted by Cleveland, traded to Minnesota, waived by Minnesota, signed by Toronto, waived by Toronto, signed by Brooklyn, waived by Brooklyn, played in Turkey, signed by Phoenix, waived by Phoenix. Too many have come to the same conclusion about Anthony Bennett. Not NBA good enough.
The beautiful yet cruel thing about the NBA is its socialism. Everyone gets a chance. Everyone gets their opportunity, multiple chances really. You can go to Europe, get some seasoning and come back and be Hassan Whiteside, a max player. You can be a lottery pick, have everyone hate on your defense, go to China, become a star there, flirt with coming back and decide no thank you. That is the Jimmer Fredette story. You can evolve through the G-League like David Nwaba who was called up to the Lakers and now is with the Bulls with an opportunity to play on a team with zero stars. Or your NBA career can quietly end like Tony Mitchell who was drafted in the same class as Anthony Bennett and played 21 games and is now in the Dominican Republic.
Of those drafted from college in the first round of the 2013 Draft, Anthony Bennett is the only player not on a roster to start the 2017-18 season. Bennett didn’t play any games in the exhibition season. The Suns were always a long shot. They are a young team that plays fast and scores quick. Bennett is a player who had injuries and struggles with weight. His game is suited more to a Sacramento Kings bench where he can come in for bigs on a team who were bottom-5 in pace last year and rely on half court sets. Bennett in Phoenix seemed like one of those lottery tickets you buy when the jackpot is $400 million. You waste some money but not much because the likelihood of winning is worse than getting hit by lightening.
Anthony Bennett has yet to be hit by lightning or be lucky enough to win a jackpot. One step forward. Five steps back.
It makes you wonder what the Cavs were trying to do with Bennett. The thinking outside the box excuse has grown weary and really it’s window dressing for failure. The Cavs had a young Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson. They needed a scorer like C.J. McCollum, a center like Rudy Gobert, and if they really wanted to take a flyer, why not Giannis Antetokounmpo? Those players were less risky as a number one pick because they had a marketable skill. McCollum was a lethal scorer, Gobert was a dynamic shot blocker and Antetokounmpo was an athlete.
After the draft, Bennett couldn’t play in Summer League because of a shoulder injury and he came into camp overweight which saddled upon him the label of bad work ethic. On the court, he wasn’t particularly quick nor did he have any semblance of footwork in the post or moves as he tried to score and salvage his reputation as joke of a number one pick, a mistake. No one thought he should be the number one pick so he was constantly trying to disprove a negative.
Bennett had confidence early on but it was that sort of fake tough confidence from kids thinking they are men. You never know until you fail if you are confident or not. Bennett wasn’t. In his rookie year, he said he had no idea what he was doing. But the Cavs never sent hit to the D-League.
But if this is the last of Anthony Bennett and I’m skeptical it is in the land of a thousand chances, he will leave the way he entered, as a curiosity but for the most part not remembered.No one is optioning his NBA story to make into a film. He wasn’t a college star. He didn’t attend one of the glamour programs, no Duke or Kentucky or UCLA. He was no one’s phenom who suffered the tragedy of karma. UNLV isn’t interesting enough to get anyone’s attention in the post Tarkanian years. If Bennett is anything, he is a cautionary tale more than he is a story that will linger. If he gets credit, it is for wanting back in, for trying.
But trying doesn’t count in a world of cut throat businessmen and explosive athletes and skilled tacticians. No one really cares about want to, just cannot thrive. Lasting counts for the rare few who can survive and advance. Anthony Bennett, 2013 number one draft pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers could not. Survive. He will not advance. It’s the cold hearted but equitable way things are done here. Goodbye.