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B-Wright's Proving Ground In Mavs Donuts
DONUT 1: The done deal ...
"I'm looking forward to getting the bad taste out of our mouths from not making the playoffs last year,'' Brandan Wright told DB.com a few weeks ago as he was preparing to sign his new two-year, $10-mil deal. "I'm blessed to be back!''
Wright was the eighth overall pick of the 2007 draft but last year gave Dallas 8.5 points per game and 4.1 rebounds. (Those numbers don't jump off the page ... but read on.)
"I'm just happy for the opportunity to be a part of the Mavs organization for the next two years,'' Wright tells DB.com ... and here we break down an assortment of reasons why the feeling is mutual.
DONUT 2: A proving ground ...
Whenever we talk to Brandan Wright, we find him to be thoughtful and honest in his self-evaluation. He doesn't hide his belief that when he came to the Mavericks two years ago, he had much to prove to the NBA -- and to himself. He was coming off an injury-riddled season and had been scrap-heaped ... and needed an opportunity to show people that he was not just another lotto bust.
Mission Accomplished. ... so far. It's fair to say that Wright did a good job of proving that he belongs in this league. It's also fair to say that he's joined a solid list of big-man reclamation projects who have gotten themselves fixed in Dallas.
Brandon Bass, Ian Mahinmi and most notably Tyson Chandler all belong on that list. They all came to the Dallas Mavericks with little hype, hoping to develop into serviceable big men or in Chandler's case, hoping to prove he could stay healthy and become a dominant defensive player.
All three got their chances to establish themselves with the Mavericks and when their contracts were up they were all allowed to walk right out the door once proven, destined to show off their new-found confidence and legitimacy for other franchises.
And that separates Wright from Bass, Ian and TY: He's staying.
DONUT 3: Waiting his turn ...
Brandan Wright averaged 8.5 points per game and 4.1 rebounds, which is respectable for a reserve big man, but the statistics might be misleading. Check this out:
Wright played 20 minutes or more in 14 games last year and averaged 10.9 points, 5.1 boards, 1.9 blocks and 64-percent shooting in those games.
We believe it was Wright's lack of bullish rebounding that caused coach Rick Carlisle to take a long time to warm up to Wright. (Rick says he doesn't "have a doghouse.'' But that's because he finds the phrase demeaning, not because he fails to put a player in "time out.'')
Wright's season was riddled with numerous DNP's by coach's decision and even more games that he played less than 10 minutes. Worth noting: Wright kept it classy, barely mumbling about the way he was being managed, simply waiting his turn.
DONUT 4: The circumstantial chance ...
Carlisle came around on Wright in April ... maybe just because of nagging injuries to other big men. In that month, B-Wright played an average of 23 minutes per game. At times Wright thrived as an energetic center alongside Dirk Nowitzki. While he was pushed around on defense at times, he also picked his spots offensively and left an impact on games.
DONUT 5: The Showcase Showdown ...
A great showcase for Wright's skills? Late March, Celtics in Dallas:
DONUT 6: Rick's summer evaluation...
Here's what Rick said about B-Wright before the re-signing: "He gives us activity, gives us a slippery body, plays above the rim, gives us some length defensively with shot blocking and position defense. He's one important puzzle piece to our collective group."
All true. Maybe less than incredibly glowing. Hey, maybe Rick didn't want to influence other teams' pursuit of the restricted FA by praising him too highly?
DONUT 7: The boxscores don't lie ...
Here are a few random game logs of B-Wright from the last five weeks of the season:
March 8th: 14 points, 70% shooting, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, 19 minutes
March 10th: 13 points, 86% shooting, 7 rebounds, 27 minutes
March 14th: 10 points, 56% shooting, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 24 minutes
March 15th: 13 points, 75% shooting, 5 rebounds 26 minutes
March 18th: 12 points, 56% shooting, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 21 minutes
March 22nd: 23 points, 69% shooting, 8 rebounds, 30 minutes
March 26th: 11 points, 63% shooting, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 31 minutes
March 30th: 17 points, 88% shooting, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 23 minutes
April 5th: 20 points, 64% shooting, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, 26 minutes
April 7th: 12 points, 60% shooting, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, 23 minutes
April 14th: 16 points, 62% shooting, 4 rebounds, 23 minutes
That looks like the work of someone who is doing a lot with a little bit of opportunity. Oh yeah, and in those 11 games the Mavs went 10-1.
"I'm just excited to get this thing rolling again," Wright said, and when we examine these numbers, we get a little excited, too.
DONUT 8: Hit the Gym! ...
On the very first day Wright arrived in the AAC basement, Chuck Cooperstein joined us in observation of his work. He is so narrow in the shoulders and in the hips that playing center seemed unlikely ... and that putting on weight seemed even less likely than that.
There's no doubt Wright would be aided by added bulk. Mark Cuban is on-record as wishing Wright could add about 20 or 30 pounds of muscle. ... and honestly, that is very unlikely to happen given his body type.
But he can get stronger, and combine that with his quickness, his athleticism, and his knack for being the first one to jump around the basket.
Strength would help him defensively, too, where he gets by on jumping ability and smarts but still gets pushed around. Centers in the league back him down with relative ease.
Yes, the Mavs had something when they were playing Wright and Nowitzki together, and Dirk was a fan of it. But it left Dallas vulnerable to teams with a strong interior presence.
"For me personally, I just work on my game everyday, my strengths and weaknesses,'' he said. "I want to be a better team player. I know I can be a piece on this team to help us win."
DONUT 9: Thanks, Frisco Party Station! ...
A great partner with us in charitable work and a great place to get a movie and a meal ... thanks for the DB.com relationship, Frisco Party Station!
DONUT 10: Allegiance ...
Somewhere in the story of Wright's return to Dallas it needs to be mentioned that the organization did a convincing job of getting him to wait while it sifted through its big-money free-agent targets, and then wait some more while they handled each new contract in a necessarily orderly fashion that also kept him on ice.
And in that same chapter it should be mentioned that Wright volunteered to stay on ice, resisting the natural urges to be courted by other clubs.
"I'm very happy and excited to be back here, playing in front of the best fans in the world,'' Wright said last week. "Throughout the whole free agent process, I never really wanted to leave, I can say I flirted around with other teams, but my heart was always here and to be a Dallas Maverick. ... I was happy to get that call from Mark, Coach and Donnie as soon as the clock hit 12 o'clock on free agency.''
We know it's a sports business and we know players are "assets''; this space preaches that as vocally as anyone. But there is some added value here, on both sides, we think -- as corny as it might sound -- because there is some sense of allegiance.
DONUT 11: Oh, and he's just 25 ...
Weird thing. He's gone from "lotto pick'' to "bust'' to "reclamation project'' to "probable success'' and he's just 25. That's a lot of labels for a guy so young. Here's some more: "High rotation player.'' "Great locker-room guy.'' "Good now with room to grow.''
At $5 mil a year, Dallas has made a sound bet-on-the-come here.
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
We went into this process with Wright noting that backup big men who show a little of anything get paid in this league. You will recall a year ago it was Indy spending for Dallas' Mahinmi, giving him a four-year, $16-million deal. Now it's B-Wright's turn to cash in, and also his time to continue a technique that's worked very well for him with the Mavs:
Prove himself. Again.