The Cleveland Cavaliers have won three straight games since Chris Grant was fired as general manager, and rather ironically, the man who may have been the last strike against Grant is now finally looking like a competent NBA player.
That of course would be No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett, who had the best game of his young career in a 109-99 victory against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night. In 30 minutes, Bennett had 19 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 6-of-9 overall and 3-of-3 from three. He only committed one foul and one turnover during that time.
After the game, Kings coach Mike Malone bluntly explained what happened, according to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:
"Anthony Bennett kicked our ass," Kings coach (and former Cavs assistant) Mike Malone said after the game. "I'm sure Chris Grant is smiling at home, and deservedly so. His number one guy came in and gets his career high in points and rebounds."
Grant may feel vindicated a bit now, but one has to imagine he wishes this kind of play would have showed up sooner. Perhaps he would still have a job if that was the case.
Bennett's struggles at the start of the season were historically bad. After undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, the No. 1 pick came in to camp woefully out of shape, and he struggled to crack the rotation. When he did play, he was a bricklaying, fouling and turnover machine.
There were calls to send Bennett to the D-League, but the Cavs preferred Bennett work things out in practice. And while Bennett was struggling on the court, he remained diligent in getting back into shape. All the hard work appears to have paid off, as Bennett has lost 30 pounds since October and is starting to show why Grant had enough faith to draft him No. 1.
Bennett has some ways to go before shedding the bust label that was prematurely placed on him. Having a big game or two is great, but the key is showing consistency. But at the very least, it's nice to see Bennett finally contributing and having some fun out there.