by Fred Kerber
New York Post (Not Online)
For a rookie, sitting is to be expected. So last season went as expected for Antoine Wright. The Nets' first-round pick two Junes ago admitted the NBA game was more than he anticipated, and he had little impact in 2005-06. So he hit the offseason with vigor and purpose.
When Season 2 began, Wright felt better prepared. He started the campaign as a rotation regular, but gradually things changed. In and out. Out and in. Wright was a frequent visitor to both the rotation and irregular playing time.
There were reasons for the fluctuations. An inconsistent shot hurt. So too were strong efforts by others vying for time. Coach Lawrence Frank dabbled with every rotation combination. Sometimes Wright was included, sometimes not. Then came a recent elbow injury that knocked him from the active ranks.
"This has probably been the most frustrating time," Wright said before the Nets faced the Nuggets in the Meadowlands, "because last year I went through a stretch where I wasn't playing then I went through a stretch where I was playing. And this time, it's been like up and down. It's probably been the most frustrating, so you just have to stay ready and do whatever it takes at this point of the season.
"It's been a bunch of unfortunate events: hurting my elbow and then there were rotation changes," Wright added. "I didn't expect it at the beginning of the year, but then as things happen, you start to adjust to the situation."
But the season is not over - plus there is other business to handle. For Wright, today is a big day personally. His brother, Tony, is being released from a California prison after serving time for burglary. Wright admits that Tony helped steer him away from the trouble that led his big brother to prison. When the NBA player was lonely and homesick at a New England prep school, Tony encouraged and helped him get through it. Wright is planning a reunion next week.
"He'll be back home tomorrow," Wright said. "I'll be here and my mother will probably be with him. We go to Detroit next week so I'll see him then."
There is still time for Wright, who on Sunday made a huge effort on the defensive side, helping quell the hot-shooting Cuttino Mobley. Last night, Wright could expect to see time on Carmelo Anthony, the Nuggets stud he helped check to 23 points in Denver back in January.
"I just tried to take away his jabs," said Wright. "He really does a good job of scoring off his jabs, so [I] just try to sit on his right hand and make him go left. It worked for me."
And as long as the defense continues, so will the minutes.
"He's missed some time with his injury, but he played very well," Frank said. "If you look at the minutes he played against the Clippers, he gets a charge, he gets a steal, he makes a tough shot in transition, he hits another pull-up jumper. He had impact on the game. He has a defensive mindset, so there's going to be different opportunities and matchups where we need him on the floor."
"[Wright] did a very good job of doing his work early and getting denials, understanding when to help and when not to help."
Frank said there will be more time forthcoming for Wright, especially with Cliff Robinson on the shelf. Robinson missed his fifth game in six outings last night with a sprained left knee.
"So guys like [Wright], Hassan [Adams], even Bernard [Robinson]," Frank said, "midsize guys who can defend, in different situations may be out there."