Anthony Bennett struggling with conditioning as he starts NBA career

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Part of the reason it was a surprise Anthony Bennett was the No. 1 overall pick is that nobody had seen him workout — he had shoulder surgery and did not go through the NBA Draft Combine, or do pre-draft workouts this season. After that he couldn’t play in Summer League either.

So maybe it’s not a shock he’s got some conditioning issues to start the season.

Bennett talked to Jodie Valade of the Plain Dealer and told her getting his body in NBA shape has been the hardest part of adjusting to the NBA so far (hat tip to KD at Ball Don’t Lie).

The biggest adjustment, he said, is getting back his conditioning. Although he said he’s at his 240-pound playing weight, the Cavaliers would like to see him slimmer in order to be more aggressive.

“The conditioning,” Bennett said. “I’ve been working on it, I’m trying to play longer periods of time in games. Whenever Coach puts me out there I want to go out and play hard, but I’m still trying to improve on that. I’m just taking it day by day.”

That conditioning — and the rust of not having played since April — is showing as Bennett was 2-of-12 in Cleveland’s first preseason game. In the second game (going on as this story was written) he started out 0-of-3. (UPDATE: He his 5-of-7 after I wrote that, shaking off his shooting slump for a monster first quarter.) He has seemed solid on the boards.

There is no rush here. The Cavaliers can bring Bennett along slowly behind Tristan Thompson this season (and ultimately determine which of the two is a part of the long-term plans of the organization). Bennett is the No. 1 pick, he’s going to get his chance. Once he gets into NBA shape.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.