It’s amazing that Anthony Bennett was even able to run up and down the court by the fourth quarter last Friday night, let alone single handedly burn down the Orlando Magic by throwing them on the floor, powering them inside and finishing them off with a display of outside three point shooting. Not because of any conditioning issues, but because he has the biggest sack of any Cavalier since Zydrunas Illgauskas. And none has ever combined it with a level of skill and power like Bennett displayed.
THE UNCONSCIOUSNESS OF ANTHONY BENNETT (Fernando Medina - Getty Images)
Early in the second quarter- and with the Cavaliers trailing substantially (they would be down by as many as 18 in the game) Nikola Vucevic threw Bennett to the ground from behind while Bennett was attempting a layup. Bennett looked tentative, settling for jump shots – all of which missed, leaving the lane open. We saw Dion Waiters hammer down dunks in this game, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao in a mad double scramble for loose balls and offensive rebounds, preseason MVP candidate Kyrie Irving handle the ball like his hands contain secret magnetic properties. Sergey Karasev show that his 203 pound body is big enough to make shots, handle the ball, play defense and find open teammates.
But what was most remarkable, of course, was that Anthony Bennett arrived and won this game 110-105 in Orlando. With around six minutes and 30 seconds left in the game, Bennett threw his shoulder into a jarring pick, for which he was justly called for a foul and then engaged in a monstrous offensive explosion that sealed the preseason game for the Cavaliers. Perhaps more importantly, it gave us a picture of who he is.
You can’t **** with Anthony Bennett. I don’t care who you took in the 2013 NBA Draft, NOBODY, not one man, and maybe not two men, have the balls that this guy has. He backs you down inside with broad shoulders, makes turnaround jumpers in your face, has three point range all within a giant body that you cannot work through. He weighs on you as if you were tethered to a life jacket filled with cement.
“…the first time we saw him I think all of us walked out of the gym just amazed with his ability and talent.” – Chris Grant at Anthony Bennett’s introductory press conference the day after the 2013 NBA Draft.
What Grant didn’t say when he introduced Bennett was that Bennett plays angry. He doesn’t give a **** about you or me or what we say or who’s defending him or who’s taking the ball to him. You throw him on the ground and he will come after you, he will hunt you down, he will set fire to your house, steal your car, turf your lawn, then spackle sandwiches inside your walls. You’ll feel lucky that you got out with whatever sense of dignity he couldn’t find and destroy. He’s a potent scoring weapon, and he’s terrifying. He’s coming like a unstoppable meteorite. Like burning sulfur from the sky.
These are not the Cavaliers of 2011, or 2012. This is actual optimism. This is happening now. The Cavaliers play Tuesday in Canton against Charlotte.
PS. DION WAITERS IS JACKED UP. ARRON AFLALO CAN'T BELIEVE IT. (Fernando Medina - Getty Images)