CLEVELAND — The NBA All-Star weekend is the unofficial halfway mark of the NBA season and to say Anthony Bennetts rookie campaign hasnt gone quite as expected so far would be an understatement. The 20-year-old rookie from Toronto, the first Canadian ever selected with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft when the Cleveland Cavaliers grabbed him in 2013, has had anything but a storybook beginning to his professional career. While the rest of the NBAs best and brightest spent their weekend in New Orleans for All-Star festivities, Bennett was just the second No. 1 pick to not be selected for the annual Rising Stars game, composed of the leagues best rookie and sophomore players since Washingtons Kwame Brown in 2001. Bennett is patient when asked about his struggles. After starting his professional career 0-for-15 from the floor, hes had to get used to talking about it. «Well, its not the way I planned it to go, I can say that,» Bennett said. «Im pretty sure everything will turn around soon. Im working hard and Ive got my teammates with me. The coaching staff has been helping me a lot so Ive just got to keep my head up and go hard.» While his start hasnt been ideal, Bennett has faced the music and remained calm amid pressures and criticisms coming from all angles. Speaking in the Cavaliers locker room before a recent game in Cleveland, Bennett was frank about his struggles this season, while also confident that the tide was turning. «Its overwhelming, but Im pretty level headed,» Bennett said. «Ive got nice teammates who have been in the league a few years. They can tell me a lot of what theyve been through. Ive been humble, level headed and working every day.» The advice from teammates and coaches is the same: keep working. A visit to the Cavaliers practice facility showed he is taking that advice to heart. Long after everyone else has left the floor, Bennett remained. Practising free throws under the watchful eye of an assistant coach, Bennett looked like any other NBA rookie. «Everybody has had their part,» Bennett said of the Cavaliers organization. «Helping me with my game, shooting after practice, or pulling me aside and giving me pointers here and there. Everybody has been really helpful.» Injuring his shoulder prior to the NBA Draft, Bennetts rookie season was derailed before it began. Missing the Las Vegas Summer League where rookies get their first taste of NBA life, while also being unable to train during the offseason, Bennett came into the Cavaliers training camp with extra weight to accompany the extra pressure that every first overall pick carries with him. Playing sparingly at the beginning of the season, Bennett has worked hard to shed the extra pounds and get into game shape so hes ready to go when his name is called. Last Tuesday night, in a victory against the Sacramento Kings, Bennett posted his best performance to date, recording 19 points and 10 rebounds. He followed up the next night with a two-point, two-rebound performance. Bennetts roller-coaster experience serves as a reminder of the patience necessary when drafting young players each year. With half a season behind him, Bennett is starting to get a feel for what to expect each night he steps onto the floor as a pro. «In college it would be one game, someones a seven-footer, but the next game someone is six-foot-six,» Bennett said. «Everyone is pretty much the same size now. Youve got to go hard every time.» In addition to staying after practice for extra work, Bennett often returns for a second session. How does the first overall pick deal with the lows that have accompanied his season thus far? With a little help from his hometown friends. «My close friends from back home, theyve been with me from the start, before this [being in the NBA], so they see my ups, they see my downs. They know what Im going through.» After a game where he hasnt performed well, or even gotten the chance to get off the bench, they are the ones who help keep Bennett focused on whats in front of him. «Every time I have a bad game or am feeling down, I hit them up and they tell me to keep staying with it,» Bennett said. «Theyll come out here and after bad games theyll go with me straight to the gym. Thats something thats really helpful for me and Im thankful for it.» As Bennett begins to show flashes of why the Cavaliers wanted him in the first place, he isnt allowing an unexpectedly difficult beginning make him lose sight of the fact that hes living his NBA dream. «Its a huge honour. Its a blessing, you know? I just cant let this opportunity slide for me. I have to work hard every day. This is my job. I have to work hard and be happy about it.» Nike Roshe Run En Solde
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. Lyle followed his opening 72 and with a 71 on Friday to reach 1-over 143 at Royal Melbourne. The Australian hadnt played a tournament since a second bout with myeloid leukemia in early 2012 after having first fought off the disease when he was 17.TORONTO – Standing comfortably by his dressing room stall, David Clarkson refuses to dodge questions about a goal drought thats lingered 10 games into the start of his Maple Leafs career. Hes willing answer queries for as long as needed. «Ask whatever you want,» he says. And he understands the questions. But he also knows why he was brought into the fold in Toronto and why Dave Nonis and company chose to pony up seven years at $36.75 million. «I wasnt brought here to score 50 goals,» Clarskon said earnestly after practice on Monday morning. «I was brought here for that full game that I bring, competing every night.» Nonis made that point clear on the day he signed the Mimico native last July. The considerable size and weight of the deal aside – not to mention the 30 goals he scored two seasons ago – internal expectations for the 29-year-old did not hinge strictly on offence but instead on the range of tools and experience he could contribute to a group prospectively on the rise. And though he hasnt scored, with bad luck in a mostly defensive role primarily to blame, Clarkson has generally played that part with the Leafs, admittedly still adjusting to the new confines of life in Toronto. «He hasnt really let it affect anything about him,» James van Riemsdyk said of Clarksons goal drought during a conversation with the Leaf Report. «I think hes come in and filled his role; [hes] played hard, finished checks, stuck up for his teammates and had a couple tough bounces as far as goal-scoring [goes]...» Predictably pesky and a willing physical combatant, Clarkson has actually been at his best as a puck-controlling, forechecking burden deep in the offensive zone – something the group at large has struggled with until spurts recently. Effective in that regard mostly alongside Mason Raymond, Clarkson leads the team in puck possession (CORSI,) despite starting many of his shifts in the defensive zone. «Thats something Ive always brought,» said Clarkson, who has three assists, including a pair in the past two games. «In my career, Ive always been known to be a guy that down low is hard to play against, thats always in the blue paint, winning battles down low, finishing checks and driving the other team crazy.» An admitted adjustment early on, Clarkson has been employed in a primarily defensive role so far, matched up against opposing top lines more often than not. Hes held his own in such duties – on the ice for just four goals against. Never was his effectiveness in this capacity more pronounced than his second game of the year. Playing alongside Raymond and Dave Bolland, Clarkson helped keep Sidney Crosby off the scoresheet for just the second time all season (to that point.) «The whole game, I was trying to hit Sid or trying to hit Malkin every shift because, if those guys are a little bit hesitant that you might do something, all of sudden maybe theyre looking over their shoulder and not as effective,» he said. «I always try to play that same way.» A Cup finalist with the Devils in 2012, Clarksons veteran credentials have also held sway among his more youthful teammates – all but a handful are younger than his 29 years. Nearly toppling the veteran Bruins in the playoffs last May, the LLeafs looked to Clarkson and Bolland for aid in the leadership department this past summer.dddddddddddd «Hes one of those guys you can look at to be a constant out there,» James Reimer told the Leaf Report. «Hes just a good leader and hes a good pro. And a young team, thats what a lot of the time we need. You need those people that you can look up to.» Reimer points the manner in which Clarkson has handled the early string of misfires offensively. «Hes not getting rattled, not breaking his stick, not swearing up and down,» said the 25-year-old netminder. «He just comes to work every day.» Several factors have worked to hold Clarkson in check offensively, luck and role most prominently among them. A sign of his unluckiness to date: the Leafs boast an even-strength shooting percentage of a paltry 2.6 per cent when Clarksons been on the ice this season, lowest on the team (with a minimum of 10 games played.) The several opportunities he has had, including a jam play opposite Jhonas Enroth on Saturday and a squeaker through the five-hole of Cory Schneider a week earlier, have fallen just shy of crossing the line. In addition to bad luck, Clarksons role has also changed from where it left off with the Devils. A first unit power-play contributor in Jersey, he is, at best, a second unit option in Toronto – stuck behind the skillful likes of van Riemsdyk, Raymond, Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Nazem Kadri, and Tyler Bozak when healthy. Clarkson, who totaled 14 power-play goals and 24 power-play points the past two seasons, has averaged 1:50 per game on the man advantage thus far, down from the nightly 3:33 he garnered with the Devils last season. Not helping his cause offensively either is the limited amount of even-strength shifts hes started in the offensive zone – slightly above 17 per cent, lowest on the team – nor the amount hes shot the puck to date; just two per game, down considerably from the past two seasons. «We think that David Clarkson has got a lot to offer to our hockey club and hes had his fair share of chances,» said coach Randy Carlyle. «Hes a little bit snake-bitten, but if he continues to go to the net the way hes been going and we continue to drive that middle lane and get pucks directed around him hell score some goals for us. We believe that.» With career-highs of 30 goals and 46 points, the production is unlikely to ever match the annual $5.2 million pay grade, but rightly or wrongly, thats not why the Leafs signed Clarkson in the first place. «If David Clarkson doesnt score 30 goals in a Leaf uniform, but provides all the other things that we know hes going to provide were pretty comfortable were a better team,» Nonis said on July 5. Clarkson says the early drought may have bothered him as a younger player, what with the now daily barrage of questions and pressure to contribute offensively, but with age, experience and a family, he appears neither frustrated nor agitated. He knows his poor luck is bound to change, also understanding the manner in which he can affect the game otherwise. «Theres so much that he brings to this team,» Reimer said. “When he starts scoring, honestly itll just be a bonus." 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