As compliments go, some carry a little bit more weight than others.
Thus, when Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle compared the defensive performance guard Delon Wright had against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night to the incomparable Jason Kidd, more than a few eyebrows were raised.
Kidd was a 10-time All-Star, a four-time All-Defensive first team selection, a five-time All-Defensive second team selection, and one of the catalysts when Carlisle and the Mavs captured the 2011 NBA title. So, when word got to Wright about Carlisle comparing his defensive performance to a Hall of Famer of Kidd’s ilk, Wright knew that was like tugging on Superman’s cape.
“That’s high praise,” Wright said. “I appreciate it. (Kidd is) one of the greatest bigger guards in the history of the NBA.
“He tries to take a little bit of everybody’s skill set, and he does it all.”
That’s precisely what Wright did during Friday’s 123-116 win over the Pelicans. The five-year veteran scored 20 points, snatched seven rebounds, handed out three assists, and picked up a career-high tying five steals.
“We haven’t seen defense like that since Jason Kidd was here,” Carlisle said. “And the play at the end where he stole the ball (from Josh Hart) on the rebound really was a microcosm of the night that he had.”
That defensive gem by Wright which Carlisle was referring to came with 18 seconds left and the Mavs clinging to a five-point lead. Hart had just grabbed a rebound off a missed free throw by Dorian Finney-Smith, and before he could start dribbling the basketball, Wright snuck in from his right side and stole the ball.
Wright’s performance was why the Mavs sent a pair of second-round draft picks and the draft rights to Satnam Singh to Memphis in a trade with the Grizzlies on July 8. Wright, who missed some time in training camp while nursing a hamstring injury, had been more than anxious to show the Mavs that they did the right thing by making that trade.
“I’ve been waiting to have one of these top games,” the 6-5, 185-pound Wright said. “Preseason is a little tough because you’re not playing your full rotation and things like that, and I was injured.
“But this is like, finally, I feel like myself.”
Of course, the Mavs were already fully aware of Wright’s all-around skills. Last year Wright finished the season with triple-doubles in three of his final four games. And two of those came in consecutive games – against the Mavs.
Wright poured n a career-high 26 points and added 10 rebounds and a career-high 14 assists during a 122-112 loss to the Mavs back on Apr. 5. Two days later Wright scored 20 points, grabbed a career-high tying 13 rebounds and distributed 12 assists to lead the Grizzlies to a 129-127 victory over the Mavs.
All of Wright’s talents were again on full display against the Pelicans.
“He was amazing,” point guard Luka Doncic said. “He played an amazing game. He’s that kind of player. He was the key to our win.”
Center Kristaps Porzingis agreed.
“Delon played great,” Porzingis said. “Delon had his best game so far, and that just shows what he’s capable of doing.”
By the time Wright entered Friday’s game for the first time, the Mavs were already down 22-13. New Orleans eventually increased its lead to 43-27 before the Mavs, led by Wright and Porzingis on the defensive end of the floor, put up a strong defensive front.
“I was able to get into a flow early, get up and down, get some steals and just kind of play and do what I do,” Wright said. “Even when I did come in, we were still giving up some points.
“But as we settled in, I was able to settle down and settle into the game and kind of make my mark on the game.”
Much like Kidd did on numerous occasions during his Hall of Fame career. Hence the comparisons from Carlisle.