Approaching the start of his second season, Cleveland’s Anthony Bennett finally made his Summer League debut earlier this week, and turned heads. Playing at his old collegiate stomping grounds, “Big Daddy Bennett” received a hero’s welcome, with a hero’s physique. A paunchy hero, like Frank Miller’s Batman, but a hero nonetheless.
As possibly the single most popular player at LVSL, his enthusiasm has been infectious, cheering and applauding his teammates for every positive contribution. If you hadn’t seen his fairly disastrous rookie season, you could be forgiven in thinking he was the reigning rookie of the year. His on-court performance hasn’t been bad, either, posting averages of 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in the group stage of play, all three victories for Cleveland. Where this piece relates to Michael Beasley, and by extension, dominant college combo forwards everywhere, is with the news you may have heard about the Cavs’ recent acquisition of another combo forward, LeBron James. For as much as everyone keeps talking about how great it will be for Andrew Wiggins to have LeBron as his mentor, it might be doubly so for Anthony Bennett, whose game, ideally, should be much closer to James’ than Wiggins’ will ever be.
An interesting thought experiment is to imagine what Michael Beasley’s career might have been had he not been cleared out of town to make room for the Big 3 in 2010, and had gotten the opportunity to be mentored by LeBron. Not just in an on-court sense, but in how to be a professional. Workout habits, film study, dieting, everything. The door might be closed on Beasley ever being a legitimate NBA player, but his loss is Anthony Bennett’s gain. With how much better he looks at LVSL, he seems to be up for the challenge now more than he ever has before.