I know, I know. Brandan Wright’s tenure in a Warriors uniform and in street clothes behind the bench while injured can hardly be considered an “era.” But since the word “era” has been so overused in recent years that it’s actually cliche to complain about its overuse, I thought it worked for this post in a sarcastic sense. Because if you’re a Warriors fan and you followed Brandan Wright’s story closely, the only thing you can do is laugh. Why? Because throwing things at your living room wall could result in losing your security deposit.
And as Brandan himself taught us, if you do anything strenuous like that, you could really hurt your shoulder.
It’s hard to recall without the use of mind-altering drugs, but the “We Believe” craziness led people to believe that Chris Cohan wasn’t the devil. In fact, he was starting to be thought of as the first owner since Franklin Mieuli to care about winning (I’ll wait for you to stop laughing). The type of owner that was the anti-Mark Cuban, a non-basketball guy who left the basketball decisions to Chris Mullin, who could seemingly do no wrong after somehow shedding two of his earthbound, so-called untradeable contracts away for the decidedly more dynamic Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington. The Warriors raced into the playoffs playing basketball that mixed the mad genius of Don Nelson with the unselfish, defense-phobic stylings of the early 2000’s Kings and Steve Nash’s Suns.
Then, as if trying to cash in on all that newfound credibility in one miserly move, the Warriors traded their third long-term contract away for Brandan Wright and something called a $10 million trade exception (which most people called an “exemption,” which didn’t really matter because Cohan had no interest in using it either way).
The thing was, J-Rich wasn’t DunMurphy. He wasn’t Baron Davis either, and his injuries late in the 2007 season made him sort of a forgotten man in the rush to crown the bearded one and Stack Jack the co-overlords of Oakland. But Warriors fans loved Jason Richardson because he was a quiet leader. They loved him for his athleticism.
(Isn’t it kind of strange how Richardson’s become the forgotten legitimate Slam Dunk champ, as if the only ones that matter now are Dr. J, MJ, ‘Nique and Vinsanity? How can anybody who won the contest two times in a row with dunks like the one below ever be considered in the same category as Ced Ceballos or Fred Jones?)
Still, the Kool-Aid chuggers told us to give Wright a chance. Look at the light blue uniform he wore in college and think of the pedigree that comes with. Look at his touch around the basket. Look at his size, which along with youth is a can’t lose combination.
And to be fair, Wright knows how to play basketball. His per-36 minutes numbers have always been tantalizing. While his personality and looks gave him the nickname “Sad Dracula,” and that was hardly in the True Blood “I’ll rip your throat apart with my teeth” sense, he’s a decent rebounder and an good shot-blocker.
Too bad he could never stay on the floor. Out of 301 possible games, Wright played in 98 for the Warriors. An assortment of shoulder injuries, shoulder surgeries, back pains and God knows what else kept him off the floor for long stretches of time (including the entire 2009-10 season), which in turn led Don Nelson and Keith Smart to shackle him with DNP-CD’s at times when healthy — especially Smart, who had seen enough of Wright’s Charmin-esque act as an assistant to put any sort of hopes in Wright keeping his head coaching career afloat.
Will Wright ever be worth anything? Many say no, but I’m not so sure. The first time I met him was a few years ago at a post-game event on the Oracle Arena floor for donors to Adonal Foyle’s charity (I think … all I remember was I was there for the free luxury suite ticket that my friend couldn’t use). Foyle and Wright share the same agent, and the gregarious Foyle forced Wright to come and mingle with the crowd, about 20 or so people. I shook his hand, and it was soft and gentle, the opposite of assertive. He was wearing braces, and it seemed like it was all he could do to look me in the eye. Forget professional athlete, Wright was less intimidating than Natalie Portman during the first hour of Black Swan (and he wasn’t hooking up with Mila Kunis, either).
Contrast that with my recent post-game interview with Wright after a surprisingly productive effort against the Pacers, when I saw a different guy. Confident. Defiant, even. Maybe it was his resentment toward Smart and the Warriors front office, maybe it was a couple years of maturity, but interacting with him that night was a total 180 compared to when I shook his hand back in 2008.
Now, fairly or not, Wright was seen as the guy the Warriors traded Richardson for, and all they got for their troubles was a Nets’ 2nd-rounder in 2012. For my money, the true crime the Warriors committed was letting that trade exception pass by with nary a thought of using it. However, if Wright can somehow take the tools that made him a lottery pick, play through minor aches and pains and avoid major injury, trading him for a Troy Murphy buyout and middling draft pick will surpass even the trade exception non-usage in the lore of self-inflicted Warrior mistakes.