By Tom Withers | Associated Press
CLEVELAND -- Anthony Bennett's rough rookie season hit a new bump.
The Cavaliers' first-year forward will miss at least three weeks with a strained left knee, the latest setback for the No. 1 overall pick who has been a major disappointment for Cleveland.
Bennett underwent an MRI on Sunday that showed a strain to his left patellar tendon. He played eight minutes in Saturday's home loss to the New York Knicks.
The injury is another obstacle for Bennett, who has shown some improvement lately and signs of developing into a rotational player.
"He's been coming along," Cavs coach Mike Brown said following practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. "He's had some pretty good games for us on both ends of the floor. So it's tough with the amount of time left in the season, but it's part of this."
The Cavs expected to endure some growing pains with Bennett, who played just one season at UNLV. The Canadian came into training camp overweight after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder and then it was learned he suffers from asthma, seasonal allergies and sleep apnea.
Bennett has appeared lost at times on the floor, and it hasn't helped that he's put added pressure on himself trying to live up to being the top pick.
Through it all, Bennett has continued to work hard and there have been flashes of the 6-foot-8, 260-pounder's immense talent and potential.
The Cavs will likely take a cautious approach with Bennett, and unless they move themselves into playoff position, it's possible his season could be over. Bennett's averaging only 4.1 points and 2.9 rebounds in 13 minutes per game.
Also, Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving was sick and missed practice Monday. He's not expected to miss any time and should be able to travel with the team, which begins a crucial three-game road trip on Wednesday in Phoenix.
The Cavs are running out of time to get back into the playoff mix. They enter the week tied with the Knicks in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, 31⁄2 games behind Atlanta for the eighth postseason spot. After facing the Suns, the Cavs will visit Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Next week, the Cavs travel to Miami, Oklahoma City and Houston.
The good news is that they're getting healthier.
Center Anderson Varejao returned to the lineup Saturday after missing 12 games with a back issue and his minutes will likely increase over the next few games, Brown said. The Cavs will also have swingman C.J. Miles back in their rotation after he missed nine games with a sprained ankle.
Owner Dan Gilbert vowed his team would be back in the playoffs for the first time since 2010, but that pledge won't happen if the Cavs don't start stringing wins together.
On their last West Coast trip, they went 3-2 and played with confidence that carried them for several weeks.
"We need to play well, obviously with where we're sitting," Brown said. "I'm looking forward to it and I think the guys are, too. Hopefully we'll do what we're capable of and come back feeling good about ourselves."