In the NBA’s what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, everybody’s starting from scratch.
Nobody’s done anything recently, thanks to COVID-19. Not on the basketball court, anyway.
In the case of Delon Wright, however, some explaining is needed when it comes to what he did on his summer break.
If you go back to the last time we saw the Mavericks on the American Airlines Court, Wright was doing just fine. He was throwing down 10 points, nine rebounds, four assists and four steals in a 16-point win against Denver.
Stretch it back further, to the final five games before the season was interrupted, and Wright averaged 9.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and shot a whopping 61.5 percent from 3-point range.
He was a plus-11 or better in the three victories during that stretch (minus-20, combined, in the two losses).
The way Wright finished in early March was one of the reasons coach Rick Carlisle pulled the 6-5 swingman aside during the stoppage to explain to him how important those kinds of performances are for the Mavericks.
“Over the break we talked a couple times and we piggybacked off the Denver game, our last game, and the impact I made defensively and hitting threes,” Wright said from the bubble in Orlando. “He said he sees that as a normal thing for me and something I should be able to do every game – pick up full court, be disruptive defensively and offensively, when I see a (spot) do what I can do best.”
It’s been more than a week since the Mavericks got to the Orlando bubble and they’ve had six practice days. Carlisle seems to have found a sensible work-rest schedule of three practice days followed by a day away from the basketball court.
As things ramp up toward the July 23 scrimmage against the Los Angeles Lakers and the regular-season resumption on July 31 against Houston, players are having to relearn their roles and where they will fit into the rotation, given that several key members of the roster are unavailable.
Without Courtney Lee and Jalen Brunson out in the backcourt and Willie Cauley-Stein, Dwight Powell and, for now, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist out in the front court, the rotation can get thin in a hurry.
“That’s the beauty of Delon,” president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said. “He can play a little point guard, a little two and a little three. He’s certainly capable of defending at all those positions.”
Wright joined the Mavericks after 3-plus seasons at Toronto before he was traded to Memphis in the Marc Gasol deal. He was re-signed and traded to the Mavericks last summer and was averaging 7.3 points, 4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.2 steals in 21.7 minutes per game before play was halted.
After four months without a game, Wright is like the rest of his teammates – ready to take on somebody, anybody. But there’s a reason why teams are getting three weeks in the bubble before the regular season restarts.
“Obviously, we’re not where we want to be, at least for me personally,” Wright said. “It’s starting to come back day by day. We’re just trying to take it slow and not overdo it too early and make this push to the playoffs.”
In the meantime, Wright said he’s picked up a new hobby.
“I’ve been fishing almost every day with some of the guys and my guy (Jonas) Valanciunas from the Grizzlies (he was also part of the Gasol trade). So that’s probably been my favorite thing to do.
“For me, I have never fished in my life. But the opportunity was there for me to go with some of the guys. I thought, why not. There’s not much else I would be doing. I know it’s only for a limited time. I’m here and want to make the best of it.”
That’s the great thing about being in the bubble. It’s basketball 24/7. But when it’s not, any diversion is a good one.