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NBA Toronto Raptors Anthony Bennett

Raptors Waive Anthony Bennett To Sign Jason Thompson

It’s about time, the Anthony Bennett experiment is over for now. Toronto Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri has finally decided to add a little bit of hopefully useful depth on his bench by picking up veteran 6’11 big man Jason Thompson who had been waived by the Warriors last week to make room for Anderson Varejao.

 

 

Bennett has struggled in the NBA, starting with being drafted number one overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013 despite being injured prior to the draft. Injuries and what looked like a lack of confidence or maybe trust in his surgically repaired shoulder seem like the logical reason why Bennett was never able to live up the expectations of a lottery pick let alone being number one.

The Raptors took a flyer on him this past summer and handed Bennett the 15th spot on their roster, but in 19 appearances, he just didn’t perform. Throw out the low points and rebounds, he shot 30.8 percent from the field and 21.4 percent from three-point range and didn’t look good on defense either. More would have been expected from any third year player.

Even the Mississauga Raptors 905 didn’t bring out the best in him. Bennett shot just 33.9 percent from the field and 25 percent from deep against the want-to-bes and hopefuls in the NBA D-League. His 9.2 points and 3.1 rebounds was beyond disappointing at this level.

The 29-year-old Thompson is an eight-year NBA veteran who has started 406 NBA games. He played for the Kings until being traded last summer to the Warriors.

In Sacramento Thompson had career averages of 9.4 points and 6.9 rebounds in 26.5 minutes, but on a deep Warriors team there were few opportunities to play.

In Toronto he will give head coach Dwane Casey a third string big man with solid NBA experience for those occasions when someone gets in foul trouble, is injured or maybe is just having an off night.

 

Update:

The Phoenix Suns may be interested in picking up Bennett. That would be good news for Team Canada as Bennett could be an important piece in the team’s drive to qualify for the Olympics later this summer.

 

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Toronto NBA Raptors Anthony Bennett

Raptors Anthony Bennett To Play 905 And 416 On Sunday

The Toronto Raptors assigned forward Anthony Bennett to their NBA Development League affiliate, Raptors 905, on Sunday and the forward shot 5-16 from the field for 13 points and grabbed 4 boards in 24 minutes for the 905 in their 105-94 win over the Delaware 87ers. However, his day wasn’t over. He is expected to be recalled by the Raptors and available to play in their 6 p.m. game versus Sacramento at Air Canada Centre.

“Anthony came to us asking to use this double-header as an opportunity work on his game,” said Jeff Weltman, Raptors Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations. “This is an example of how we envisioned using our D-League team to improve our players.”

The Toronto Raptors are short-handed because of injuries to forward DeMarre Carroll and center Jonas Valanciunas, so head coach Dwane Casey might need the extra big man in case of injury or foul trouble against the Kings.

“Bennett wanted to play, he came to us,” Casey confirmed before Sunday’s game. “I think it’s great for all the young guys who are not getting the big minutes here. Even Norm (Powell), the minutes he is going to play with us, he still can go there and play minutes and come  back and still compete and play and the same with Anthony (Bennett). I think it’s great.”

The Raptors have been taking advantage of the proximity of the Mississauga Raptors 905 to allow their young developing players to play and practice in the NBA D-League without losing their connection to Toronto. This is precisely what the organization hoped for when they acquired their own affiliate team.

 

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Anthony Bennett

Is Toronto Raptors Anthony Bennett Too Shy To Succeed?

Former first overall NBA draft pick Anthony Bennett is getting another second chance in Toronto. However, the local product just hasn’t been taking full advantage of some early season opportunities. With both Terrence Ross and DeMarre Carroll on the shelf and head coach Dwane Casey desperately searching for some offense out of his second unit, it seems like Bennett is just too shy to succeed.

“I’m pretty shy, a lot of people don’t really know that,” Bennett admitted. “(The Raptors) welcomed me with open arms. They taught me a lot of things.

“It’s been a learning experience, Cleveland, Minnesota and now here. I am just taking it day by day (trying to) better myself anyway I can.”

Bennett has played in each of the past four games, averaging 9 minutes without a made field goal, but what is perhaps more concerning is he has only attempted 1.8 shots per game and come up with just 1.5 rebounds. It isn’t easy being an injury reserve, however, Bennett can’t know when this opportunity will come again. This is no time to be shy.

Maybe Bennett is struggling with being in front of his friends and family? Maybe it’s the pressure of playing for a team that’s expected to win? However, if Bennett can’t get over some of that shyness and at least start performing at the level he did in Minnesota last season, maybe a trip to the Raptors 905 would help?

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

Scola & Patterson

Will Raptors Patrick Patterson Step Up And Take The Starting Job?

The Toronto Raptors want Patrick Patterson to step up and take the starting power forward job, but he hasn’t been making it easy to hand it to him. Head coach Dwane Casey continues to insist that nothing is promised this season and players will have to earn their roles and Patterson has looked like a square peg in a round hole as a starter.

“We got to find five guys tied together defensively,” Casey said after their last preseason game. “Patrick has got to take those (three-point) shots. I don’t care if he misses, he has got to take them.”

Through three preseason games Patterson is averaging 2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 18.7 minutes and 33.3 percent shooting. He isn’t fitting in on defense and he isn’t playing the stretch-four role Casey was hoping would open the inside for Jonas Valanciunas. This isn’t a complete surprise. When asked to start last season, Patterson played some of the worst basketball of his tenure in Toronto and that’s from a guy Casey can normally rely upon for offense and defense off the bench.

What this has been leading to is Casey taking a look at Scola with the starters, giving Anthony Bennett a shot and even James Johnson some minutes.

“We got to find out who Pat Patterson is,” Casey lamented. “Who Luis Scola is, who Anthony Bennett is, James Johnson? We got to find some of those positions to come and help us.”

Casey’s biggest problem may be he wants Scola to help with the development of Bismack Biyombo and to provide a veteran scoring punch in the second unit, but Scola is likely the far superior fit with the starters right now and he knows it.

Through three preseason games the solidly reliable Scola is averaging 9.3 points, 7 rebounds, 16.7 minutes and 54.5 percent shooting. Scola doesn’t have Patterson’s range, but he’ll shoot the open jump shot, keep the floor spaced and can hit the occasional three. Scola is also a far superior rebounder, but this isn’t anything Casey didn’t know going in. Scola is second in total rebounds so far with 21 boards, just 5 boards behind Valanciunas. Patterson has 7 total rebounds (tied with guards Terrence Ross and Delon Wright).

Both Bennett and Johnson have been slowed by (hopefully) minor injuries and they haven’t taken Patterson’s minutes yet. Bennett averaging 4.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, 11.5 minutes and 27.3 percent shooting in two games. Johnson has 2 rebounds in 8 minutes so far. However, there is still a long ways to go before the regular season starts.

“It’s a work in progress,” Casey said. “We are not there yet. We have a long ways to go defensively. A long way to go offensively. That’s why we call it preseason.”

At the start of preseason Casey said he was looking for the best fit with Valanciunas from his starting power forward and it’s obvious now that he was hoping a stretch four would provide that. However, sometimes things don’t go as hoped or take longer to develop than expected.

Scola can play in either the starting unit or come off the bench and be an impact player for Casey. Scola is a veteran who can play a multitude of roles and making life easier for Valanciunas isn’t likely to be much of a challenge for him. Even though this will be Patterson’s third season with the Raptors, it’s possible he may not be the right fit with the starters. He wasn’t last year.

There are four more preseason games and little over two weeks before the games start to count and if Patterson can show some progress as a starter it would help, but what would really help is if Patterson would step up and take the role he says he wants.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

Toronto NBA Raptors Anthony Bennett

Raptors See Something In Anthony Bennett That Others Don’t

by Frank McLean

The most interesting of the Toronto Raptors off season player additions happened the night before training camp started with media day on September 28th. That’s when they signed Canadian power forward Anthony Bennett to a one year minimum contract of $947,000. Bennett is an interesting story.

Two years ago the Cleveland Cavaliers made the Toronto native the first pick overall in the NBA draft, making him the first Canadian to go first overall. Then, after a year in Cleveland, he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

You could see Cleveland’s logic in trading Bennett. He battled injuries in his rookie season with the Cavaliers. Add LeBron James making his way back to North East Ohio and Bennett was seen as the perfect trade chip as James needed some veteran players to fit his skill set. So the Cavaliers included Bennett in a trade to get Kevin Love, a seasoned player to gel with James. A move many thought had James’ fingerprints all over it.

But after a year in Minnesota and more injury problems, the Timberwolves were happy to place him on waivers. After no team claimed him, the Timberwolves bought out the remainder of his contract for 3.6 million dollars.

In his two years in the NBA Bennett has only played in 109 games, averaging 14.3 minutes, 4.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. Not great numbers for a first pick overall, but when you have been hit with the injury bug in sports that fragile label sticks to you and never seems to go away. ESPN television and radio mouths have had a field day debating his abilities as a pro and, for that matter, the ability to stay healthy.

The Mike and Mike in the morning show were insinuating that Bennett may be the worst first pick overall in the history of the NBA draft. Boy you’d think that they were talking about a 32-year broken down old 10 year pro and not a 22-year old going into his third season. Cue your Toronto Raptors taking a chance on Bennett.

They obviously see something in Bennett that other teams may not. Plus being a Canadian and a member of the National Team is always a good marketing move. But can he play and stay healthy?

As general manager Masai Ujiri said on media day,

“For us to get a Canadian 22-year old power forward that is athletic and can play at the minimum? We’ll take it. He’ll have a chance. We feel like we’re a growing team and we can absorb a guy like that.”

Bennett meanwhile is ecstatic to be able to play at home in Toronto. At 22-years of age Bennett is of the Vince Carter/ Tracy McGrady generation. Carter and McGrady made those kids growing up during their time as a Toronto Raptor, not only basketball fans, but players as well.

“I feel like it was the perfect situation for me” Bennett said a week ago. “Coming home, playing in front of family, friends, fans it’s just being comfortable”.

Just because he is Canadian and a Toronto native doesn’t mean a job will be handed to him. Coach Dwane Casey made that point too.

“He should feel comfortable,” Casey said. “But again all the time and everything else, he’s going to have to come in and earn it.”

So it’s up to Bennett to work his way up the Raptors roster.

A wonky shoulder kept Bennett out of the line up in the Raptors first pre-season game, but his play with the National Team during the Pan-Am Games proved he is worthy of a second chance in the NBA.

National Team coach Jay Triano and GM Steve Nash love him as a player and a person. Bennett is also happy to get to play with one of his national team teammates and another Toronto native Cory Joseph.

“I’m very excited to have the two of us here, representing our city and our country,” Bennett said. “And I’m just really excited. I can’t even put it into words.”

This is a win-win situation for the Raptors. If it works out it’s great for team. If not it only cost them the minimum salary and didn’t put a monkey wrench into their salary cap.

Many players in sports have used a change of scenery to jump start their careers. Bennett is looking for that in coming home to Toronto. Hopefully Bennett can take this opportunity to stay healthy and prove to the basketball world that he is not the worst first overall pick in the NBA draft history.

 

 

Frank McLean - small sizeVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.