RICHFIELD, Ohio — Kent Benson, entering his 11th season in the NBA, remembers what it was like breaking in.
"When I was a rookie in 1977, John Gianelli was the veteran center with Milwaukee," he says. "He gave me a lot of valuable advice that helped me as we sat on the bench during timeouts or talked during workouts. I felt comfortable seeking him out for help.
"Now, I'm 32 years old and it's my turn to share with (center) Brad Daugherty and (forward) John Williams. I have knowledge and experience to share with these kids. Well, they're kids to me."
Wayne Embry, the team's vice president and general manager, understands what the 6-foot-10 veteran will bring to the club.
"Young players need somebody to help them along, to teach and guide them as they develop," he says.
Adds Cavaliers Coach Lenny Wilkens: "All I can say is that Kent will help us tremendously. Having him will give us an experienced hand."
Benson came to Cleveland Oct. 8 from Utah in a three-way trade involving New Jersey and six other players.
"My career has taught me that you have to stand for something or you'll fall for anything," Benson says. "There's so much going on out there--drugs, women--you can very easily fall prey. I don't trust in people, but I trust in their principles."
Benson says players must realize the NBA is a business.
"It can be fun or it can be miserable," he says. "I have to be separated from my wife and my three daughters. But the people you meet make up for the hassles and so does the satisfaction you get out of helping others."
Benson said Daugherty, a second-year center, can learn to position himself better.
"I'll tell him that Mr. X is weak on his left side, so drive him there or say that Mr. Y is strong on his right, so keep pressuring him on that side."
Says Daugherty: "There's no question myself and other players will learn from him, but let's not lose sight of the fact that he's a tough defensive player who can help this team."
Benson inherits the backup role of Mel Turpin, who was traded to the Jazz. The scale read 282 pounds when Turpin reported to Utah. Such things bewilder Benson.
"You see guys with $2 million bodies and 10-cent minds," he says. "It's really disgusting and disappointing to see players with such God-given talent waste it through laziness or the inability to comprehend what he has."
Benson was the No. 1 pick in the 1977 draft. He played 2 1/2 seasons with Milwaukee before being traded to Detroit. He spent 6 1/2 seasons with the Pistons and was dealt to Utah before the start of last season.
For his career, Benson has averaged 9.1 points and 5.7 rebounds. His most productive campaign was 1981-82 when he averaged 12.5 points an 8.7 rebounds.
"I never claimed to be a superstar, even when I came into the league as the top overall pick," he says. "I was on a great team at Indiana comprised of players who made each stand out.
"After we won the NCAA championship (in 1976), people expected us--myself, Bobby Wilkerson, Quinn Buckner, Scott May, Tom Abernethy--all of us to come into the NBA and be All-Stars."
Benson, who wants to play another two or three more years, will establish a "Kent's Korner" at Richfield Coliseum. That consists of 100 season tickets donated to local charities and organizations.
"I have an income and lifestyle that's nice," he says. "This is one way I can be grateful, by helping others."