Cavs' Bennett shows early penchant to crash boards
OCT 20, 2013 9:33p ET
He pulled down 10 again in his most recent (Saturday vs. Indiana).
The first time, he played 22 minutes. The second, he came in at 25. That's 20 total rebounds in 47 minutes -- or one minute less than an actual game.
Now, none of this is to say the Cavaliers rookie and No. 1 overall draft pick is the second coming of Dennis Rodman. Bennett may not even be Cavs center Anderson Varejao, who averaged just more than 14 boards a game last season before getting hurt.
But rebounds are important to Bennett, and as he's showing in the preseason, an underrated (and often unspoken) facet to his game.
"It's something I did in college," Bennett told FOX Sports Ohio of his 8.0-per-game rebounding average last year at UNLV. "I'm just trying to transfer it to the pros."
In five preseason games, Bennett is averaging 6.6 boards (along with 10.6 points). That's second on the team behind Varejao's 9.0. They've played similar minutes and battled similar opposing big men.
Difference is, Varejao is 31 years old and entering his 10th NBA season. Bennett is 20 and has yet to play a real NBA game. And while Varejao's board work is a bit more obvious, with his hair flopping and his arms flapping, Bennett seems to grab them quietly, almost with no one taking notice.
It's true Bennett isn't quite yet in playing shape, his 6-foot-8 frame carrying a little too much weight. It's also true he's figuring out the pro game, trying to determine when to pass and when to shoot -- as well as trying to adapt to coach Mike Brown's utter devotion to defense.
It's a lot to take in, and Bennett is attempting to do it quickly after a summer of rest and recovery from shoulder surgery.
"Obviously, it's pretty hard," Bennett said. "I'm still figuring out my role. The conditioning will come eventually."
Bennett admittedly has been pushed hard in practice -- by his own teammates, by Brown and the coaching staff. But he said he likes the challenge of it all, that he's been learning from young pros such as Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, fellow big man Tristan Thompson and others.
"I'm on a team with a lot of great young players, with a great coaching staff," he said. "I'm just pushing to be the best I can be -- both for myself and for the team."
Sometimes, the shots won't fall. Sometimes, they'll look downright ugly. And sometimes, he'll draw the ire of his coach by missing a defensive assignment.
But Bennett can stay on the floor, and in the Cavs' good graces, by continuing to chase down and seize rebounds as he learns the other components of the NBA.
"Rebounding is pretty tough; there are a lot of big guys and a lot of physical guards," he said. "So it's a real battle."
Still, it has not deterred Bennett from feeling confident or lessened his desire to keep crashing away.
"As my conditioning gets better," he predicted. "I'll be getting a lot more rebounds."
The Cavs return to preseason action Monday vs. the Philadelphia 76ers at Ohio State's Schottenstein Center.
Along with Ohio's lone pro basketball team, the game features fourth-year Sixers swingman Evan Turner, the second overall pick in the 2010 draft. Turner played collegiately for the Buckeyes.
While solid, Turner has failed to live up to some fairly lofty expectations with the Sixers -- carrying career averages of 10.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
That said, he's looked pretty good recently and enters Monday's game sixth in the NBA in preseason scoring (19.8 ppg).
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on FOX Sports Ohio.
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