The Wright Situation
Dorell Wright is poised to finally prove his worth.
by Jonathan Santiago / @ITSjonsantiago
He finally got his shot last season.
It took two years watching from the sidelines as the Miami Heat contended for championships. It took another three years, plagued with injuries after that.
But Dorell Wright finally broke through and played in 72 games last year — the most he’s ever logged in his six NBA seasons.
Now he’s looking to take the next step, to fulfill the promise he’s only managed to tease thus far in his young career.
“I’ve walked into a great situation for myself,” he said of his decision to sign with the Golden State Warriors. “I’m looking forward to helping a good young team, bringing all the different tools I know win games and being a vocal leader out there on the court.”
Wright has always been an intriguing talent. The Heat drafted him right out of high school, 19th overall in the 2004 NBA Draft. And if it weren’t for the major acquisitions the Heat made in free agency, Wright might still be part of their plans.
But now with Golden State, he’ll finally get the chance to show why Heat brass thought so highly of him.
When he’s played, he’s shown flashes of defensive brilliance and offensive versatility. That makes him an ideal fit on a Warriors team that would like to maintain some aspects of its freewheeling offense, but also upgrade on the defensive end.
“Defensively, I think he’s going to help us guard some bigger threes we struggled with last year,” second-year point guard Stephen Curry said of his new teammate. “He’ll give Monta (Ellis) some rest in that regard.
“He’s also had some plays called for him now where he can showcase all the talents that he has,” Curry continued. “He’s going to be an X-Factor for us.”
A near-lock to start at small forward, Wright expects to play a much more expanded role in Golden State. His talents were suppressed in Miami, not to the fault of their coaching staff or his own. Career setbacks such as a meniscus tear in his left knee during the ’07-08 NBA season kept Wright from reaching his full potential.
But in Golden State, he is ready to have his number called. Though Don Nelson is no longer around, Wright is being utilized in the point forward position under new Head Coach Keith Smart. And it’s a role he’s relishing.
“Now I get to show everybody my total game instead of just defending and knocking down corner threes,” Wright said. “I get to show my passing abilities, my ball-handling abilities and a lot of other things.”
Wright said he’s patterned his game after the Orlando Magic version of Hedo Turkoglu. He spent the last two seasons watching plenty of Turkoglu highlights at the advice of the Heat’s coaching staff. He said they envisioned him playing a similar role in Miami.
“They wanted me to come off high screens, get guys involved and shoot right over shorter defenders,” Wright said. “So I’ve just been putting all that stuff together the last two years. I’ve been learning and watching.”
Instead of utilizing his playmaking skills in a Heat jersey this year, Wright will do so in a Warriors uniform. He hopes his presence can help relieve some of the offensive burden faced by the Warriors’ young and explosive backcourt.
“[I can] take a lot of pressure off Steph and Monta having to make a play down the court,” Wright said of his facilitative approach to the game. “Now you got three playmakers on the court. So, I’m looking forward to doing that and showing everybody up.”
Wright is ready to put his early career struggles behind him. The lack of playing time, the injuries — they no longer matter.
“I’m just happy I have a chance to express my whole game now,” Wright said of his fresh start in Northern California. “Now I just have to put everything together. I’ve been working hard my whole life and the past six years with Miami.”
Warrior fans are all too familiar with home-grown talent leaving the Bay Area and blossoming elsewhere. Maybe in Wright’s case, the reverse can become true.
Jonathan Santiago also co-hosts the weekly Davis Sports Deli Podcast, which can be found here.