When Delon Wright smoked the Oklahoma City Thunder for 14 points, 12 rebounds and four assists Sunday night, coach Rick Carlisle said Wright is one of those players who is “proud to be a Maverick.”
Part of that pride is Wright’s ability to keep charging ahead, even when things don’t go particularly well. The recent road trip was a great example.
His showing against the Thunder proved it because it came about 48 hours after he had a rough finish to the loss in Utah. It was a terrific show of resiliency by Wright and all the Mavericks.
In that game, long, lanky Jazz center Rudy Gobert blocked a Wright drive to the basket that could have tied the score in the final moments. Wright appeared to have a step on Gobert, but the big man recovered for the defensive play of the game.
Two days later, Wright still was talking about it.
“Gobert made a hell of a play,” he said.
But the road trip was just getting interesting, and not in a good way.
On Sunday, there was the dreadful news that Kobe Bryant and his daughter died in a helicopter crash. And suddenly a botched layup try didn’t seem like such a big deal.
“Our focus was on praying for Kobe’s family and the other families involved,” Wright said. “And that kind of got our minds off basketball for a while and we were able to lock in. And we pride ourselves on being able to bounce back.”
The Mavericks played perhaps their best defensive game of the season against the Thunder, winning 107-97 with Wright making a slew of plays at both ends. And Wright was maybe their best player on the floor not named Luka Doncic.
Rick Carlisle likes to say that the Mavericks have a lot of starting-caliber players and there’s no choice but to bring some of them off the bench. Wright is one of those players.
He had six offensive rebounds against OKC and 12 on the three-game road trip that ended 2-1.
“It’s a strength of his,” Carlisle said. “He’s got a great feel for the ball and a great nose for the ball. We have it as something he is able to do and he had a couple (in Oklahoma City) that were really exceptional. He made it look easy – very fast-happening, high-level timing involved.
“And because he has the ability to crash the boards AND get back quickly, that allows you to give him the latitude to do that kind of thing.”
For the season, Wright has averaged 7.4 points, 4 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Over the last 10 games, he’s averaged 2.1 offensive rebounds.
Those second-chance opportunities are priceless in the NBA.
“It’s what I’ve been doing since I was young,” Wright said, “and coach Carlisle allowed me to do that.”
Said Carlisle: “He’s playing better all the time. Over time, he’s gotten acclimated to how his teammates play, how to play with them, how to help set them up. We’ve certainly experimented with a lot of different lineups this year. I feel like he’s a starting-caliber player. And I think we have a lot of those guys that are coming off the bench.
“We feel like he’s a big strength of our team. He did a lot of diverse things (in OKC) – rebounding, scoring, driving and the assists. And we need him to do those things.”
Unfortunately, none of that translated into Tuesday’s game, a 133-104 blowout loss to Phoenix. But neither Wright nor any of his teammates had anything going and the Suns melted the Mavericks in the second half.
But nobody will be betting against their resiliency showing up again on Friday at Houston.
Nice to greet you: Before the game, new center Willie Cauley-Stein had a chat with the local media members and he had some give-and-take going with Justin Jackson, who has the locker next to Cauley-Stein and was his teammate for two years in Sacramento.
Jackson took partial credit for helping get Cauley-Stein to Dallas. The two became friends in Sacramento, despite Jackson being a North Carolina Tar Heel and Cauley-Stein a Kentucky Wildcat.
Asked why there aren’t more Wildcats in the locker room besides himself, Cauley-Stein said: “It’s only a matter of time.”
We’ll have lots more on Cauley-Stein on mavs.com coming Wednesday.