Janny Hu, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, October 25, 2007
(10-24) 17:46 PDT Oakland - If Brandan Wright stood behind Sonics big men Nick Collison and Chris Wilcox, the Warriors rookie would simply drop out of sight.
But stack him up against Seattle's beefy starters with the game on the line, and the only thing to drop was coach Don Nelson's jaw.
The Warriors' rail-thin rookie didn't just hold his own against Collison and Wilcox during Tuesday's exhibition win over the Sonics. Wright outplayed them down the stretch, using his Inspector Gadget arms to rebound and show off his shooting range.
With Nelson turning the game over to his youngsters, Wright came through with seven points and six rebounds in a 14-minute showcase that took his coach completely by surprise.
"He was just terrific," Nelson said. "And I wasn't even going to play him."
The 6-foot-9, 205-pounder left his prints all over the extra period, grabbing four rebounds and firing in his second smooth-looking jumper of the night.
His final rebound total was split down the middle - three on offense, three on defense - and was especially encouraging given the competition. The 6-10, 255-pound Collison is in his fourth year in the league, and Wilcox (6-10, 235) is a five-year veteran.
Wright had been bumped around by bigger players in previous games, and Nelson attributed the better results to a defensive scheme that had Wright and fellow rookie Stephane Lasme fronting their opponents. Lasme, even more undersized as a 6-8 center, finished with seven points in 15 minutes.
"We were just trying to stay in front," Wright said. "Make sure a guy helps out, don't give up the block, try to make it a little crowded in there, try to make him think twice about getting (the ball) over the top."
"It lets them use their quickness. It's not a strength move," Nelson explained. "That really helped them defend the low box."
Then Nelson added, as if in disbelief: "Brandan was where he was supposed to be defensively. And he's got something special because he's so long and quick. He got to balls that nobody else on my team could have got to."
It was the first real chance for Wright, whose wingspan measures 7-feet, 3.25 inches, to show off in limited preseason play. He skipped summer league to rest a sore hip, and the missed time was just one of the reasons why Nelson had dismissed his rookie's NBA-readiness.
According to Nelson, Wright hadn't had an outstanding practice or game yet. He was still learning the system. He was young and light and had just turned 20.
"I just finally said, 'Well, you know what, I'll stick him in there and see how he does in a pressure game,' and he played really well," Nelson said. "He definitely got my attention. I have to do a double-take on him now."
There's no guarantee that Wright can crack the regular-season rotation, but the quicker he develops, the better off the Warriors will be at power forward.
Mickael Pietrus made his second start at that position on Tuesday and didn't grab any rebounds before fouling out in 12 minutes. Al Harrington had a decent game with 10 points, seven rebounds and five turnovers in 21 minutes, but Nelson is bringing him off the bench for now.
Briefly: Rookie Marco Belinelli also had a solid game Tuesday with 10 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals in 23 minutes. Nelson went with his rookie trio and Monta Ellis and Matt Barnes for the final 4:31 of regulation and all of overtime. ... The Warriors said fewer than 1,000 tickets remain for Tuesday's opening night game against Utah. Tickets can be purchased at warriors.com or by calling 1-888-GSW-HOOP.
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