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Back in Las Vegas, No. 1 pick Bennett plays the waiting game

The Cleveland Cavaliers made sure Anthony Bennett didn’t have to wait long to hear his name called on draft night when they made him the No. 1 pick last month.

His mom is putting him through a bit more suspense in deciding on his first big purchase as a multimillionaire.

Bennett, who will make around $5 million per year for the first two years of his contract under the rookie salary structure, said he has yet to spend any money on himself.

“No house, no car, nothing,” he said with a laugh Tuesday afternoon during a conversation with reporters at his old practice facility on the UNLV campus during NBA Summer League action.

He said the first thing he will splurge on is a gift for his mother back home in Canada.

“Whatever she wants, basically,” the former Rebels star said. “I’ve been saying that in all my interviews, and I told her, too. She’s thinking about it now. She won’t even tell me what she’s thinking about.”

Bennett is unable to compete with the Cavaliers’ summer league team, which went 2-1 in three pool-play games. He said he is recovering well, however, from surgery on a torn rotator cuff that caused him to miss all predraft workouts.

“I’m fine, actually. I can work out. I just can’t do any contact,” said Bennett, who also indicated his asthma is “under control” after seeing “a couple” of doctors. “By next month, I should be ready to go.”

By that time, Bennett should have a better feel for the lay of the land in his new hometown.

Most of his time in Cleveland thus far has been spent between his hotel and the team facility as he continues his rehabilitation.

The only teammate with whom he has interacted is Tristan Thompson, a fellow Canada native and Findlay Prep alum who averaged 11.7 points and 9.4 rebounds while starting all 82 games for the Cavs last season.

“Since I’ve been there, I’ve been chilling with Tristan. He’s been showing me around the city,” Bennett said. “He can help me out on the court and off the court. He’s just a good person to have around.”

Thompson was working on his game in the gym as Bennett talked to reporters but declined comment.

This was the first chance Bennett had to get back to Las Vegas, and he said one of his first stops would be at Bahama Breeze, an eatery near campus.

“That’s my spot, man,” Bennett said with a big smile. “Every time, I’m going there.”

A quick Google search revealed Cleveland has a Bahama Breeze, a fact that should please Bennett at least as much as when he joyously revealed he had located a Chipotle in Cleveland.

Being the somewhat surprising No. 1 pick brings lofty expectations, and Bennett says he is ready for that once he suits up in his Cavaliers jersey.

“Everybody says it’s a lot of pressure. But at the same time I feel like if I go and do what I have to do, it’s just the game of basketball, so I don’t really feel pressure,” said Bennett, who averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds in 35 games with the Rebels. “Just like it was at UNLV. I just played ball.”

His college coach believes Bennett is equipped to handle life in the NBA as the top pick.

“The thing that’s good for him is I felt like Anthony played his best basketball for us in the bigger games,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “I think he’s a guy who will get a lot of motivation from having to live up to the expectations of being the No. 1 pick in the draft.

“Yet he’ll do it in the way he always does, which is being deferential to older, more established teammates and being a great teammate himself. I expect he’ll draw motivation from that, and I expect really, really big things from him.”

Bennett hopes to meet some of those teammates when summer league play ends and the team returns to Cleveland.

“When I go back (next week), I hope to see all the other guys, and I’m going to introduce myself and hopefully just talk to them about the league,” Bennett said. “The program is rebuilding. There’s a lot of great players and a lot of young guys, too. I feel like it’s the right mix to do great things.”

The only downside is that means leaving Las Vegas again.

“It’s crazy all the love I get here,” Bennett said. “Too bad I’ve got to leave next week.”

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.

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