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Dorell Wright Talks China Stint, NBA Return

Dorell Wright discusses his stint in China, returning to the NBA and what he wants in his next team.

Alex Kennedy

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After spending four months in China playing for the Chongqing Dragons, veteran swingman Dorell Wright is an unrestricted free agent looking to join an NBA team. A number of franchises have shown interest in his services, but Wright is trying not to get involved in the talks until a deal is near completion.

“I have [received interest from NBA teams], but I’ve told my agent that I really don’t want to know anything until something is serious and set in stone,” Wright told Basketball Insiders in a phone interview. “I did that [free agency] waiting game this past summer, getting my hopes up and thinking this could be it, but it didn’t work out. Once something is set in stone and serious, I’ll know about it. Right now, I’m just working until I get that call.”

Wright is working out in the Bay Area alongside other former NBA players, “getting in the gym a lot, putting a ton of shots up, playing one on one and staying in shape.”

When asked what he’s looking for in his next NBA team, Wright didn’t hesitate.

“Opportunity. Somewhere I could play and contribute,” Wright said. “People know what I bring as far as shooting and leadership and being a professional. I’d like to go somewhere I could help build something for a series of years, not just somewhere I can go for the months remaining in this season. I want to be on a team that wants me, and wants me to be there for a long time. I’d like to be able to play and showcase what I can do, so that I could be there again next year with my family.”

The 11-year NBA veteran played very well in China, averaging an impressive 24.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and two steals while shooting 50.9 percent from the field.

Over the course of his NBA career, Wright has averaged 8.4 points and 3.8 rebounds while shooting 36.5 percent from three-point range.

His best NBA season was in 2010-11, when he started all 82 games for the Golden State Warriors and averaged 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, three assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 37.6 percent from long range on 6.3 three-point attempts per game. Wright spent last season with the Portland Trail Blazers, playing a reserve role in which he served as a veteran leader – averaging 4.6 points in 12.4 minutes while shooting 38 percent from three.

Blazers shooting guard C.J. McCollum was mentored by Wright last year and raved about him.

“D-Wright was and still is like a big brother to me,” McCollum told Basketball Insiders in a text message. “He always took the time to share his knowledge and experiences with me and taught me the importance of being patient and waiting for your opportunity. I still keep in touch with him now.”

Wright was one of many former NBA players in China and named Jordan Crawford, Pooh Jeter, Bobby Brown, Jeremy Pargo, Jonathan Gibson, Will Bynum, Ike Diogu and Von Wafer as some of the players who stood out to him in the CBA. He was impressed with the league and had a very good overall experience.

“The competition level was definitely different,” Wright said. “I joined one of the teams that finished near last place the year before, so I can definitely say that we did a lot better than people expected. We had a lot of good young players and, as far as the league overall, there are some really good Chinese players out there. They have some guys who can really play the game and I definitely think the league is up-and-coming. There are a lot of guys who are taking their game to China because they know it’s a great opportunity to play, you make very good money and then you’re able to get back to the States in four months to possibly even sign with another team. I think it’s great.

“Everything from the language barrier to the lifestyle is different from here in America. Thank God I had my translator, Roger, who really looked out for us and never made us feel like a burden. He made it clear that we could always call him, day or night. There were times he would wake up out of his sleep to help us communicate with whomever, so he definitely made our lives a lot easier. Some people in Beijing spoke English, but some people didn’t. That was one of the best things about being in a big city like Beijing, the fact that there were a lot of foreigners and people who would be able to speak English so we could communicate.”

Fortunately for Wright, he had made a number of trips to China in recent years and had very close friends in the CBA so he did enter his situation with some expectations.

“I did have an idea of what to expect because I’ve been with a Chinese shoe company [PEAK] for the last six years,” Wright said. “I had been back and forth to China a few times so I knew what to expect in terms of the culture and how everybody is and things like that. I was also lectured and taught about the CBA from my two closest friends, Pooh Jeter and Bobby Brown, who have been over there a few years. It was different, but they helped me a lot with the process and just the little things I should know once I got there, and everything they told me was correct.”

One thing that most NBA fans don’t know is that there are limitations on American players’ minutes in the CBA, which makes the monster stat lines that some of these guys post even more incredible. Wright explained how the minute restrictions work.

“I’ll break the whole thing down: Because my team finished in the bottom five out of the 20 teams, we were able to have three foreign players,” Wright explained. “I was our American. We had a European on our team, Esteban Batista. And then you also have to have an Asian import, and we had an Iranian point guard Mahdi Kamrani. So because he was our Asian import, he was able to play all four quarters. Me and the other foreigner, Batista, we had to sub for one another in the first and the fourth quarter. The only time that all three of us [imports] were allowed to play together is the second and third quarters. So if I’m playing in the first or fourth quarter, [Batista] is subbing out – and vice versa.”

While returning to the NBA is obviously Wright’s top priority, he is open to playing overseas again if the circumstances are right.

“Yeah, [I’d do it again] if it made sense. Like this past year, it made sense so it was a no-brainer, you know what I mean?” Wright said. “I knew that China had only a four-month season so I wasn’t taking both of my feet out of the NBA [pool]. It was kind of like having one foot in and one foot out since the season was so short and I could get back in the NBA. If another great overseas opportunity comes along like this one last year then sure, I’d go. It’s a no-brainer. At the end of the day, I have to take care of my family. I’m always going to make a business decision.”

Don’t be surprised if Wright jumps all the way back into the NBA pool soon.

 

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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The G-League is a Path Back to the NBA

The G-League has become an avenue for several player types toward the NBA, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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When the NBA first instituted their development league, its main purpose was two-fold. The first was to give experience to young players who perhaps were not seeing regular playing time on their respective NBA teams. The second was to give undrafted players a chance at getting exposure and ultimately getting to the NBA.

With the growth in size and popularity of the development league, now known as the G-League, it’s begun to serve another purpose. It’s become a place for older veterans who have already tasted the NBA life to get back to the highest level of basketball that they once knew.

One player in particular who has a wealth of NBA experience is Terrence Jones. Jones is currently playing with the Santa Cruz Warriors, the G-League affiliate of the Golden State Warriors.

Jones was originally drafted by the Houston Rockets with the 18th overall pick in the 2012 draft. He was part of a vaunted class of Kentucky Wildcats that year, which included Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, and Darius Miller. During his four years with the Rockets, he emerged as a dependable reserve and part-time starter. He averaged 9.5 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting and 5.3 rebounds.

“It was just a lot of excitement and a lot of joy, being part of the Houston Rockets was a lot of fun,” Jones told Basketball Insiders. “We had great memories and great seasons, a lot of up and downs, I just enjoyed the journey.”

Jones’ dealt with injuries his last two season in Houston, and when he was a free agent in the summer of 2016, the Rockets didn’t re-sign him. He was scooped by the New Orleans Pelicans, however, and he made an immediate impact for them. Prior to the trade deadline, he played in 51 games for the Pelicans, including 12 starts while putting up 11.5 points on 47.2 percent shooting, and 5.9 rebounds.

When the Pelicans acquired DeMarcus Cousins, however, they cut Jones. He didn’t stay unemployed for long, though, as he was signed by the Milwaukee Bucks to add depth for a playoff run. He was unable to crack the rotation, though, and the Bucks cut him as well before the playoff started. After a brief stint in China, he’s now back stateside and using the G-League to get back to the NBA.

“That’s the goal. Right now, I feel I’ve been playing pretty well and just trying to help my team get wins,” Jones told Basketball Insiders. “I think I can play multiple positions offensively and defensively. Whether that’s creating plays for myself or for others, I think I can help contribute on the offensive end.”

He’s been the second-leading scorer for Santa Cruz with 19.9 points per game. He’s pulling down 7.1 rebounds, and even dishing out 4.5 assists. In the G-League Challenge against the Mexican National Team at All-Star Weekend, he finished with eight points on 50.0 percent shooting, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals. He’s definitely a name to watch for as NBA teams scour the market for 10-day contract possibilities.

Another player who’s had a taste of the NBA is Xavier Silas. Silas is currently with the Northern Arizona Suns, the affiliate of the Phoenix Suns. He went undrafted in 2011 and started his professional career in France. That only last a few months before he came back the United States and latched on with the Philadelphia 76ers.

He played sparingly with the 76ers and was ultimately cut before the start of the 2012-13 season. Since then, he’s played summer league with the Bucks, and been in two different training camps with the Washington Wizards.

“It was amazing, any time you get to go and play at the highest level, and I even got to play in the playoffs and play in the second round and even score, that was big,” Silas told Basketball Insiders. “It was a great time for me and that’s what I’m working towards getting back.”

While his professional career has taken him all across the globe from Israel to Argentina to Greece to Germany and even Ice Cube’s BIG3 league, he sees the G-League as being the one place that will get him back to where he wants to be.

He’s done well this season for Northern Arizona. He’s their third-leading scorer at 19.3 points per game and he’s one of their top three-point threats at 39.9 percent. At the All-Star Weekend G-League Challenge against the Mexican National Team, Silas had a team-high 13 points for Team USA including 3-5 shooting from three-point range.

It’s isn’t just what he brings on the court that Silas believes makes him an attractive candidate for an NBA team. At age 30, he’s one of the older guys in the G-League and one with a lot of basketball experience to be passed down to younger guys.

“I think it’s a little bit of leadership, definitely some shooting. I’m a vet now so I’m able to come in and help in that aspect as well. But everybody needs someone who can hit an open shot and I think I can bring that to a team,” Silas told Basketball Insiders. “I think it’s the best place for anyone who’s trying to make that next step. We’re available and we’re right here, it’s just a call away.”

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NBA Daily: Lillard Playing For Something Bigger

Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has his eyes set on a bigger prize than just being an NBA All-Star.

Steve Kyler

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Playing For Something Bigger

The NBA All-Star Game is a spectacle.

By design, the game is meant to be a showcase, not just for the players selected to compete, but for the league and all of its partners, on and off the floor. It is easy to get caught up in how players selected actually play, but the reality is while most see the game as important for a lot of reasons, Portland Trail Blazer star Damian Lillard understands it has to be put into perspective.

“I don’t think it’s fair to expect people to go out there and treat it like they are playing for the team they’re under contract for,” Lillard explained this weekend.

“It’s the one time in an 82-game season plus playoffs, preseason and training camp that we actually get a break. It’s necessary to take a mental break, along with a physical break from what we do every day. There’s nothing wrong with that, so I don’t think it’s fair to ask guys to go out there and play like it’s for the Trail Blazers. My loyalty is to my team; I got to stay healthy for my team. I got to do what’s best for my team. Obviously, go out there [during All-Star] and not mess around too much and that’s how people get hurt and stuff like that. You got to go out there and play and have respect for the game, but I don’t think it’s necessary to go out there and go crazy like it’s a playoff game.”

Lillard notched 21 minutes in Sunday’s big game, going 9-for-14 from the field for 21 points for Team Stephen, a roster that included three Golden State Warriors players. Lillard believes that eventually, he’ll get the chance to share the weekend, his third, with teammate C. J. McCollum.

“Each year you see teams are getting two to three, Golden State got four this year,” Lillard said. “But you look at it and say ‘why is that happening’ and it has a lot to do with team success. Me and C.J. just have to take that challenge of making our team win more games. I think when we do that, we’ll be rewarded with both of us making it. If we really want to make that happen, then we’ll do whatever it takes to win more games.

“I feel like this season we’ve moved closer in that direction. In the past, we haven’t even been in the position to get one, because I did not make it the past two years. I think if we keep on improving we’ll eventually get to the point that we’re winning games and people will say ‘how are they doing this’ and then hopefully our names come up. Hopefully, one day, it’ll happen.”

Another issue that got addressed during the All-Star Weekend was the growing tensions between the NBA players and the NBA referees. Representatives from both sides met to address the gap developing on the court, something Lillard felt was necessary.

“We’re all human,” Lillard said. “As competitors, we want to win. If you feel like you got fouled, you want them to call the foul every time. I think sometimes as players, we forget how hard their job can be. At the pace we play, it’s hard to get every call, and then you got guys tricking the referees sometimes, we’re clever too. It’s a tough job for them. I think when we get caught up in our competitive nature, and we forget that they’re not just these robots with stripes, they are people too. You have got to think, as a man if someone comes screaming at you every three plays, you are going to react in your own way. Maybe you’re not going to make the next call; maybe I am going to stand my ground. It’s just something that I think will get better over time. I think both have to do a better job of understanding.”

With 24 games left to play in Lillard’s sixth NBA season, the desire to be more than a playoff team or an All-Star is coming more into focus for Lillard, something he reportedly expressed to Blazers management several weeks ago.

“There are guys that have this record and guys that have done these things, and I want to at least get myself the chance to compete for a championship,” Lillard said. “If I get there and we don’t win it, it happens. A lot of people had to go see about Michael Jordan, a lot of people had to go see about Shaq and Kobe. You know, those great teams, but I have a strong desire to at least give myself a chance to be there. Take a shot at it.”

With All-Star out of the way, the focus in the NBA will switch to the race to the playoffs. As things stand today Lillard and his Blazers hold the seventh seed in the West and are tied with Denver, and just a half of a game back from the five seed Oklahoma City Thunder.

If the Blazers are going to make noise this post season its going to be on the shoulder of Lillard, and based on what he said, it seems he’s up to the challenge.

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NBA Daily: James Harden on the new All-Star Format and Chris Paul Being Snubbed

James Harden shared his thoughts on the new All-Star game format and teammate Chris Paul not being selected as an All-Star

James Blancarte

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made a bold decision to alter the All-Star game format. By allowing the two highest voted players in each conference to be team captains, Silver did away with tradition and the usual West versus East format. While there were a few complaints about the switch, fans were seemingly more vocal about the decision to not televise the selection of players by the team captains.

Well, the results are in and praise for new format has been nearly universal. With players more invested in the new format, and perhaps the $100k per player bonus for the winners, the effort level was up, plays were being drawn up and executed and defense made a surprise appearance in an exciting game that came down to the final possession.

2018 NBA All-Star and Houston Rockets guard James Harden spoke about the All-Star game and the new format.

“I think it is exciting. You get an opportunity, you know, for a mixture of guys to play on the same team together. We’re trying to win though, it’s competitive,” Harden stated. “Obviously, the All-Star game has a lot of highlights but we’re trying to win, we’re going to go out there and prove we’re trying to win.”

Harden, who played for Team Stephen, did not get the win. However, Harden also made it clear that playing in the this year’s All-Star game meant even more having grown up in Los Angeles.

“To be able to play in the big boy game means a lot. I grew up, especially being from LA, you grew up watching Kobe, watching Shaq every single year. You see how fun, you see how exciting it was,” Harden said. “Now to be here, to be in the city is more special.”

While Harden made it a point to talk about what it means to play in Los Angeles, another factor he seemed excited and appreciative about was being the first player picked for Team Stephen.

“Man, that’s a great feeling. Just because in middle school I was the last pick. So, to be the number one pick in the All-Star game, that’s what the swag champ is for,” Harden said.

Harden wasn’t universally positive about All-Star Weekend. Specifically, he was not happy about being the only Rockets All-Star – especially considering Houston’s standing in the Western Conference playoff race.

“I have a lot to say about that. What are we talking about? Everyone knows Chris Paul is with the Rockets and the Rockets have the number one [record]. How does that not happen?” Harden asked rhetorically. “It’s frustrating. I know he’s frustrated. He never brings it up. That’s why I did say what I said. He’s never going to bring it up. But, I’ll defend for him. He should be here with me in LA as an All-Star.”

Harden had some success as he led his team in minutes and logged 12 points, eight assists and five rebounds. He spoke after the game and confirmed the reconfiguration of the All-Star game produced a competitive game and a fun product for the fans.

“Felt great. I hope all the fans enjoyed [the All-Star game] as well. It was very competitive. Guys got after it from the beginning of the game. Usually All-Star [games] there are a lot of dunks, a lot of freedom. Tonight was intense,” Harden said.

Harden was not wrong with his conclusion that there was less freedom. With less freedom and better defense played, Harden went 5-19 from the field and 2-13 from three-point range while finishing the game without a single free throw attempted. The lack of free throws may have irked Harden, who is renowned for his ability to get to the line (9.9 free throw attempts per game this season). Adding to that frustration, Harden had the opportunity to put his team ahead with a three-pointer late in the game but failed to connect on the shot. Unsurprisingly, Harden expressed his disappointment with the result.

“I was pissed we lost. I’m still mad,” Harden stated.

On the final play of the game, while ignoring Harden, Curry kept the ball with the chance to tie the game. Curry dribbled into a LeBron James/Kevin Durant double team. Curry wasn’t able to get a shot off and Harden was left with his hands up waiting for a pass and a chance to win the game that never came.

Looking toward next year, Harden was asked if as a possible captain he would prefer to have the player selection two weeks before or right before the game. He thought about it and then smiled.

“Probably right before the game,” Harden answered.

Commissioner Silver has spoken on the subject and is sending strong signals that next year’s selection will be televised. That will potentially add another layer of excitement to the new All-Star game format, which is already paying off for the NBA.

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