The answer isn’t nearly as straight forward as the question. There are a number of factors that contributed to Bennett’s forgettable rookie and sophomore seasons, health and conditioning among them, but the word he frequently uses to explain his improved play this summer should not be overlooked. Confidence. “[I’m] just playing with confidence, pretty much,” the 22-year-old forward responded. “Just going out there, playing defence, running the court. Just doing the little things first and trying to make offence come to me.”
The smile has returned – you’ll rarely catch him without it. He’s healthy, he’s slimmed down considerably and he has that bounce in his step again. “It feels great,” Bennett told TSN in a sit-down interview earlier this month. “My body feels great. I feel like I’m 100 per cent right now. Just getting out and running like I did at UNLV.” “It looks like he’s loving basketball again,” Triano added. “And I think that was the big thing for us. We try to make it fun for him, try to simplify it. He’s so talented in a variety of areas that we needed to just simplify what we expect of him. If he does that, the rest of it is gonna fall into place.”
One Trail Blazer has already punched his ticket to the 2016 Olympics as Al-Farouq Aminu helped Nigeria qualify for next year’s games in Brazil by winning AfroBasket in Tunisia on Sunday. This week Blazers coaches Jay Triano and David Vanterpool will try earn a spot in the Olympics starting Tuesday when they lead Canada into the FIBA Americas Championship in Mexico City. The Canadian roster features nine NBA players, including former No. 1 overall picks from Minnesota, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, as well as Toronto’s Cory Joseph, Boston’s Kelly Olynyk, Philadelphia’s Nik Stauskas and the Lakers’ Robert Sacre.
They aren’t quite the Ugly Americans, the bullies of basketball who have always stood head and shoulders above the rest of the world talent-wise, but they are the favourites, perhaps the heavy favourites, heading into the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament. And they seem to be enjoying the switch from being perennial hunters to the hunted. “I believe we have a little bit of a target on our backs,” head coach Jay Triano told a couple of media outlets after Canada’s first practice here on Saturday.”
Doug Smith: Little surprise as Canada releases Olivier Hanlan; heads to FIBA Americas with 12-man roster of Joseph, Stauskas, Wiggins, Olynyk, Bennett, Scrubb, Heslip, Ejim, Powell, Doornekamp, Nicholson, Sacre. First game in Mexico vs. Argentina Tuesday