The journey of McKinley Wright IV to the NBA has been a slow, arduous one.

It began with four years at one college – a rarity in these one-and-done days.

And his NCAA career did not culminate with a championship or even hearing his name called on draft night in 2021.

But it has brought him to Dallas. And for that, the Mavericks have been thankful over the last couple of weeks when the 6-foot point guard has been pressed into action.

Injuries are part of every sport and with Josh Green, Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber all sidelined, the rest of the roster is not just on call, but getting many chances to contribute.

Wright has taken advantage.

“Obviously, I don’t wish for injuries upon anybody, but in our sport, it happens,” the 24-year-old Colorado product said Wednesday. “My name was next and I just tried to do the best I can and be ready, play hard and try to earn coach’s trust and I think I’ve earned his trust somewhat over the last couple weeks of play.

“It’s been a dream come true for me. Everybody’s dream is to play in the NBA and I’ve been earning pretty valuable minutes to help contribute to our winning. Right now, that’s defending the ball, bringing energy off the bench and using my speed to get downcourt. I’m thankful to be in the position I am.”

As are the Mavericks.

They signed Wright when he showed flashes in training camp and he spent virtually all of the first two months of the season with the G-League Texas Legends in Frisco.

But because of a manpower shortage, Wright has been with the big club the last three weeks and he’s found himself in the playing rotation in the last six games – all victories as the Mavericks’ win streak is up to seven games going into Thursday’s visit to American Airlines Center by the Boston Celtics.

Jason Kidd credited Wright’s hard work as an undrafted player who was on a two-way deal with Minnesota last season and has probably earned at least consideration by the Mavericks or some other team to have his two-way contract converted to a fully guaranteed deal.

“We always talk about minutes, but (it’s great) having a group that’s working and not getting minutes because of guys being healthy,” Kidd said. “It just shows guys are ready.

“And give the coaching staff also credit working with these guys to make sure that they are ready when their name is called. Wright has participated in a big way for us. The player gets a lot of credit, but in the background, coaches that are dealing with the players should share some credit, too.”

As in Wednesday, when Wright spent about 20 minutes after practice hoisting three pointers with rookie Jaden Hardy and a player development coach who dutifully was shagging balls and delivering pinpoint assists.

Wright has averaged 13.3 minutes over the last six games and hit 54.5 percent of his shots. But it’s his hustle, energy and gritty defense (nearly a steal per game despite limited minutes that are keeping him in the rotation.

And, of course, it’s been a blast to play with Luka Dončić on a regular basis instead of having to guard him in practices.

“It’s crazy, I try not to dive too deep into it,” Wright said. “But a lot of my friends and family back home are like, bro, you’re playing with the MVP, playing with Luka – Luka this, Luka that.

“For me, it’s great. I get to see him do something special every single night. Obviously, I think he’s the MVP – no bias. But for me, it’s a blessing to try to push the pace and make his job a little earlier, take a little weight off his legs.”

Wright is not the only Colorado Buffalo on the Mavericks’ roster. He and Spencer Dinwiddie both attended the school, with Wright arriving three years after Dinwiddie departed.

Suffice it to say that in four years with the Buffs, Wright became a legend of sorts in Boulder. And that has led to some friendly banter with Dinwiddie.

“I did what I could in my four years at Boulder,” Wright said. “Spencer’s another Buff. And we both wore No. 25 at Colorado. So we go back and forth about who was the best 25 at Colorado.

“He gives me the edge because I was there four years and I got more wins. But I give him the edge because he won the Pac 12 championship and when I got to the Pac 12 championship game, I lost. We go back and forth about that one.”

What isn’t open to debate is that Wright is showing that, while he is operating on a two-way contract, he’s already earned every penny of that deal this season with the way he’s helped stabilize the Mavericks for a few minutes at a time – with or without Luka on the court.

“He’s been making the most of his opportunities,” said forward Christian Wood. “His energy and effort he’s brought are big for us. That’s what we need.”

And it’s been a great asset for the Mavericks, who typically play a slower pace. Kidd has stressed trying to get easier transition buckets all season, but particularly so of late.

“Coach Kidd preaches to us guards a lot to get out and run, push the pace,” Wright said. “He wants us to run, with or without Luka, just to make his life easier. We know Luka’s going to do his thing, especially when we get into the half court.

“So the more push-ahead things we can get makes it easier for us as a team and takes the load off of him and makes it easier for him.”

And Wright has proven to be a perfect fit for that directive after injuries changed his season.

Twitter: @ESefko

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