He arrived in Dallas this summer with a reputation of being a bulldog-like defender. But guard Delon Wright was anything but that in the Dallas Mavericks’ first three preseason games.
However, during Monday’s game against Oklahoma City, Wright showed that his bite is indeed bigger than his bark as he led a defensive surge that helped the Mavs chew up the Thunder, 107-70.
“Everybody’s been telling me to be more aggressive,” Wright said. “It pretty much stuck to me (Monday).”
Wright explained that the reason he didn’t bust out of the gate and be the aggressive player the Mavs acquired in a trade from the Memphis Grizzlies for a pair of second-round draft picks and the draft rights to Satnam Singh is that he didn’t want to walk right through the door and step on anyone’s toes.
“I was just trying to get a feel for everybody,” Wright said. “But they said, “Naw, don’t do that! Just be more aggressive.’ “
Center Kristaps Porzingis can relate to what Wright is experiencing. Porzingis tore his left anterior cruciate ligament during a Feb. 6, 2018 game while he was still a member of the New York Knicks.
The Mavs acquired Porzingis in a trade with the Knicks on Jan. 31, and he has only played in three preseason games. And it wasn’t until that third preseason game – this past Monday – that Porzingis felt cozy in his new surroundings.
“I also felt more comfortable and he also looked more comfortable out there (on Monday),” Porzingis said. “As the time goes by, we’re only going to get better.
“(Wright is) a guy that, as you said, he’s low maintenance. He doesn’t need anything. I think he wants to play fast and play for his team, and it’s only a matter of time. We all feel really good with each other out there. (When we) execute things very sharp as coach wants us to, then I believe we can become a force and try to get to the goal that we have, which is to make the playoffs.”
Wright was slowed early during training camp with a hamstring injury, which also played a role in his lack of aggression in the first three preseason games. But he bounced back with his best game to date when he produced nine points, seven rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes during Monday’s lopsided triumph over the Thunder.
Asked how troublesome it was trying to gain some traction while recovering from an injured hamstring, Wright said: “It was difficult because I was just trying to test out my legs and see how far I can take it. I’m just now trusting it.
“I’ve had about a week-plus of practicing and I feel a lot more comfortable now.”
That comfort, Wright insists, should bode well going forward as the Mavs are a week away from opening the regular season at home on Oct. 23 against the Washington Wizards. Along the way, Wright is still adhering to his defensive principles.
“I think it’s more important on defense to build that chemistry because you have to read guys defensively, read your teammates and know what they’re doing,” Wright said. “Offensively, we know who’s going to have the ball in their hands, who knows how to run the plays.
“I just feel like defensively, we have to be more on a string.”
Wright’s backcourt mate knows the Mavs are in very capable hands with the 27-year old serving as a lockdown defender.
“He’s a great player,” Luka Doncic said. “He can do a lot of things—pass, rebound, score.
“He’s one of the most key guys we need. We need him.”
MAVS OFF TO VANCOUVER
The Mavs (1-3) fly to Vancouver, Canada, Wednesday afternoon to prepare for Thursday’s preseason finale against the Los Angeles Clippers (2-2). Tip-off is at 9:30 p.m., Dallas time.
Many so-called experts have picked the Clippers to win this season’s NBA title. But which Clipper team the Mavs will see Thursday is still a mystery.
One thing’s for sure: The Mavs won’t see Clippers forward Paul George, who may miss the first 10 games of the regular season while recovering from offseason surgery on both of his shoulders.
And it’s uncertain if the Mavs will see Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, who led the Toronto Raptors to the NBA title this past June before signing a free agent contract with the Clippers.
In analyzing Leonard, Mavs guard Luka Doncic said: “It’s a challenge for me – for anybody. He’s a great defensive player and a great offensive player, so he’s going to be a challenge for us for sure.”
Whether Leonard plays or not, center Kristaps Porzingis is certainly geeked about facing the Clippers.
“I’m actually excited about that game,” he said. “They’re going to be one of the best teams for all the NBA.
“For us to play against them in the preseason to test ourselves against them right before the season starts, I think is great for us. And we’re going to go out there and take a step forward as a group and each one of us individually and look even better than we did (during the 37-point win over Oklahoma City) and just keep building from there.”
POST MOVES FOR DONCIC
At 6-7, Luka Doncic believes there are a few instances where he can use his height advantage to his advantage. Particularly since he is one of the tallest point guards in the NBA.
Doncic feels if he can peel down and get positioning in the post, that will make him an even more effective offensive player.
“I like to play in the post, especially if smaller guys are defending me,” Doncic said. “I talked with coach about it (Monday), so we’re going to get me more in the post for sure.”