Anthony Bennett played 20 minutes vs. the Knicks and did a number of good things, starting with being aggressive. He got into the paint and got fouled, a number of times on pick-and-fouls. He went to the line 14 times, making 11, a solid 79 percent. He also grabbed five rebounds, hit a three, had a nifty assist late and committed only one turnover. His defense, however, was spotty, losing his man on occasion.
Although it’s hard to gauge a player’s rotation potential from a preseason game, particularly Saturday night’s where Kenny admitted there were a lot of combinations, some odd and unlikely to be seen in a real game.
Still, if the Knicks game had been a regular season contest, Bennett’s 15 points would've been the third highest total of his NBA career. He’s had games of 20, 19 and 15 over his three years in the league, but that’s it. For the most part, Bennett has been an afterthought, despite being the overall No. 1 pick in 2013.
Kenny Atkinson had some positives words for Bennett after the game.
“I thought Anthony Bennett is showing some real life as a rotation big,” said the head coach. “He’s pushing for real minutes.”
Atkinson, who was complimentary on Bennett’s commitment to getting in shape and working on his game last week, spoke glowingly post-game of him and sharpshooting Joe Harris, who is now shooting 50 percent from three.
"Both of them had really good camps so it’s not a surprise," Atkinson said of Bennett and Harris. "I think most of the credit goes to them, they did a good job tonight."
It’s not unfair to say the Nets front office and coaching staff have trying to boost Bennett’s confidence.
The big question is whether Bennett can be consistent. If he can, he’s likely to see minutes. If not, it was a low-risk gamble that didn’t pay off. He has a one-year, veterans minimum deal with a team option on the second.
Bennett liked his performance, telling reporters, “I’m just trying to grab every rebound and just trying to slow the pace down a little bit and see what the defense gives me. Everybody’s been feeding me on the roll, so I’ve had that going for me.”
He has other things going for him as well. He’s 23, has a 7’1” wingspan and a 36” max vertical, a big (and finally toned) body. And maybe a new sense of confidence.
"Going out there to play my game. Everyone's been confident in me to do my thing. I feel ready,”Bennett said Monday.
It is a crowded front court right now, with Brook Lopez, Trevor Booker, Luis Scola, Justin Hamilton, Chris McCullough and Bennett all fighting for minutes. If Bennett can break out, it would be a big help, both for this year and for the future.
He likes what he sees on the Nets, telling reporters on Media Day, “It’s in a good vibe all around, not only from the guys, but from the trainers, coaching staff, everybody gets along real well. We all have the same goal.”
For Bennett, of course, getting in the rotation is a goal, too.