Looking beyond numbers, Cavs’ Bennett hardly disappoints

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A quick look at the box score will suggest Anthony Bennett struggled mightily in his first NBA game.

It will tell you Bennett went 0-for-5 shooting in the Cavaliers’ 98-94 season-opening win over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.

It will tell you Bennett missed all three of his 3-pointers, that he scored one measly point, that perhaps he did nothing more than plod aimlessly up and down the court in his 15 minutes.

Probably not what you would expect from a power forward who was selected with the top overall pick in the draft. And the fact Bennett was chosen No. 1 certainly adds scrutiny. The fact he grabbed five rebounds and held his own defensively against a Nets frontline that included Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez and the forever-physical Reggie Evans certainly doesn’t count.

At least, it doesn’t in the eyes of some fans and those who have high hopes for Bennett on their statistically based fantasy teams.

But Mike Brown fits neither description. Instead, Brown is the Cavs coach. And when it comes to Bennett, Brown said he’s OK with what he witnessed.

“I thought he was pretty good,” Brown said. “He got out and attacked the ball and showed (defensively). His weakside awareness was there.”

If you know Brown, you know things like attacking, showing and awareness count for a lot.

Yes, Bennett appeared winded and a little overwhelmed at first. He is still feeling the effects of the offseason shoulder surgery that took place after his lone college season at UNLV.

He is still not in the type of shape he wants to be — and admittedly still needs some work in the conditioning department. He admittedly is not quite sure what to make of his early entry into pro basketball.

“I’m still figuring out my role,” he recently told FOX Sports Ohio. “The conditioning will come eventually.”

Until then, Brown and the Cavs can live with the growing pains. A lesser team, a team without frontcourt depth, may not be able to say the same. But the Cavs sure can.

Bennett was the first UNLV freshman drafted No. 1 overall. He’s also the first Canadian player to hold such a distinction.

Playing ahead of him is another Canadian — third-year power forward Tristan Thompson, who’s no slouch. In fact, Thompson finished the opener with a team-high 18 points and nine boards.

So as Brown has mentioned repeatedly, the Cavs can afford to bring Bennett along slowly. The only pressure on Bennett, Brown has said, is the pressure Bennett puts on himself.

“I thought his first two shots were quick, they were rushed,” Brown said of Bennett’s debut. “But after that, he settled in.”

There’s more.

“He did a decent job rebounding,” Brown added. “I don’t even know how many rebounds he had, but I remember him being in the mix quite a few times.”

Defense, rebounding, settling in.

That’s about all Brown expects from the veterans at this point. So the fact the Cavs’ prized rookie pulled all of them off actually means something.

“For his first outing, especially going against a team like that, and the type of players he had to guard, I thought he did fine,” Brown said. “His offense is gonna come. As long as he doesn’t press on that end of the floor, he’ll be OK.”