Season Preview Essays: Antoine Wright
I knocked the Antoine Wright signing when it happened, and after weeks of self-reflection (this is the stuff I reflect on, so shoot me), I’m not much happier. In fact, my stance remains pretty much the same.
It’s not that I don’t like Wright. In fact, in NBA Live 2006 (this was before my switch to 2K), my affection for the Kidd-Carter-Jefferson and my disturbing Nenad Krstic obsession (THE DUDE WAS A BORDERLINE ALL-STAR IN 06-07 BEFORE TEARING HIS ACL!!… yeah, sorry, not the time or place) made the Nets my go to team. On that squad, rookie Antoine was always the first guy off the bench. For reasons still unbeknownst to me, I saw something in that guy, and wanted to believe he could be a major player in this league.
I was wrong.
I’m sorry. I know this is pretty cut and dry. But Wright has had 5 years to show us that he has any basketball skills except for good perimeter defense. And he has yet to show it. So why bring him over? To bolster your outside shooting with the career high 33.5% three point shooting he posted last season? To give the Kings another creator in the backcourt with his 1.1 to 0.9 assist-to-turnover ratio? There is a good reason why Antoine has yet to make his mark. The need for stoppers is always there – Bruce Bowen started for three title teams, for Christ’s sake – and yet Antoine’s only choice for this offseason was a minimum, one year deal from the Kings. That’s not a coincidence.
This feels too much like Desmond Mason 2.0. Remember what happened to Desmond? He was cut. 5 games in. Because he had nothing to give at the NBA level. And what happened then, when it seemed like the Sacramento front office admitted their mistake? They signed Ime Udoka to a similar role. And while Udoka is much better than Mason at this point, and gave much more, it was the same messed up philosophy behind both signings. The “why let our young players develop when we can ignore them in favor of veterans who aren’t as good?” philosophy, which is all too prevelant in a sport that has minds who should be above this.
The exact same philosophy is sadly existent here. Sure, it would suck to watch Omri or Donté or Cisco get torched by someone on defense and wish there was a strong perimeter stopper to help out. But isn’t it better that the young ones learn to do it on their own? To instill a culture which, in a few years, allows the Kings to play Omri and Donte without needing to sign an Antoine Wright as a backup, because the youngsters are good enough on their own?
I hope I’m wrong here, I really do. The Cisco-Beno pairing set to take the court at shooting guard is far from ideal to me, with both players giving up cosiderable weaknesses. But this is not the answer. Not over a motivated D-Leaguer, or an undrafted rookie, or just more minutes of what Sacramento already has.
You might see a lot of Antoine Wright this season, and you might see very little. Hopefully, it’s the latter. Hopefully, the minutes he gives will be better than any minutes he’s given throughout his career. However, the fact that you’re seeing any of him at all is the result of flawed thinking by a front office who has successfully minimized, yet hasn’t completely abolished personnel mistakes.