When the Toronto Raptors
acquired guard/forward Antoine Wright from the Dallas Mavericks, they landed a swingman who has a nose for being in the middle of things. Wright’s evolution from a bench player to starter for the Mavericks, his involvement in a bizarre play in which officials wouldn’t call his foul on Carmelo Anthony in last year’s playoffs and his close brush with 9/11 point to a player with a knack for being of the middle of things.
Senior writer Mike Ulmer spoke with Wright from his off-season home in Las Vegas.
Mike Ulmer: What do you have to do to foul Carmelo? Even the NBA agreed you fouled him just before he hit a three-pointer to beat Dallas in the playoffs.
Antoine Wright: (Laughs). I think I’ll have to rip his shirt off or something.
MU: At the time you said you would never forget the non-call. When was the last time you thought about it?
AW: I was doing a kid’s camp this summer. I was answering questions and one of the campers asked me about it. It was maybe a month ago.
MU: You have a reputation as a nice guy but there was the Carmelo play and another moment where the Nuggets’ J.R. Smith elbowed you in the playoffs. Why do these things happening to you.
AW: I think a lot of guys were buying into the propaganda that it was going to be a physical series, but my personality is such that I am going to be competitive when challenged.
MU: In Toronto, Larry Tanenbaum won’t be in the huddle with his team. Mark Cuban did just that with the Mavericks. Are you going to miss having your boss in the huddle?
AW: That was different.Mark Cuban is a great guy and he was great to me. In the huddle he was very encouraging. If I was the owner, I would be the same way but no, I prefer when the owner is up in the box.
MU: Rick Carlisle said at the beginning of last season that he needed a real “---hole” to toughen the team. He later said you had become his toughest player and best perimeter defender. How did you step up in Dallas?
AW: When you are a basketball player, you have to prove yourself. The best way of doing that is finding a way to impress the coach. We needed someone who could guard people and someone who could be competitive. I related to that. I felt it would be fun, mixing it up a bit. It’s about the team. I want to win. If other players are saying bad things about me, that probably means they don’t like playing against me and that’s good for our team.
MU: What’s the best advice a parent gave you?
AW: My mother always raised me to take my own approach to things that were my passions. She wanted me to be open-minded. She always said, ‘do your best and God will take care of the rest.’
MU: Smooth or crunchy and why?
AW: Smooth, it just fits together better. But I’m not the right guy to ask. I don’t eat peanut better.
MU: You have lived in California, New England, New Jersey, Dallas and now Las Vegas. What’s the secret to being comfortable in a new city?
AW: The first thing I try to do is find a good barbershop. The people at a good barbershop will bring up to speed on everything you need to know; who can help you, where you should go to eat. They’ll tell you about the city, girls, your team, everything.
MU: How many times to you get your hair cut?
AW: Twice a week, at the beginning and the end of the work week. That way it looks fresh.
MU: The Raptors
have added Hedo Turkoglu, Devean George, DeMar DeRozan, Reggie Evans, Jarrett Jack and yourself. That’s a lot of new faces. How long do you think it takes for a team and a coaching staff to realize what they have?
AW: I think that after training camp, at least for me personally, I know if we have guys who can help and in what areas. In the pre-season, the coach is working out the rotation and finding out who can do what, but you know what you have. We started 2-7 last year in Dallas but we still felt comfortable with our personnel.
MU: Which is bigger, Canada or Texas?
MU: Well, done. Bonus question… tell me the closest call you have ever had.
AW: It was 9/11. I flew from Los Angeles to Boston. One of the flights that hit the towers was going from Boston to LA. I arrived at Logan, I was going to prep school, and I walked by a lot of the people who would be victims of 9/11. By the time I got to campus, everybody was in a panic. The first thing they told me was “you have to call your mother.”