Last season the Kings would have killed to have a player like Antoine Wright on the roster. He is the type of player that comes in and does the dirty work on defense and the type of player that understands and accepts his limited role on offense. Realistically, Wright is the type of player that Coach Paul Westphal described early in pre-season when he talked about the traits he was looking for in a starting small forward. Unfortunately, it appears that Westphal is looking for either Donté Greene or Omri Casspi to play more like Antoine Wright as opposed to Wright getting the minutes himself. Here is Antoine Wright with The Purple Panjandrum.
TPP: How are you fitting in so far with the team?
AW: It’s been a little bit of a struggle for me really. I’m trying to get into an offensive groove but the plays and the players, once we get on the same track, I think I’ll fit in good.
TPP: I see you out here working with Casspi the last couple of days which is a new thing. As someone who has watched Casspi over there shooting by himself this entire pre-season, I can tell you the competition is adding a totally different aspect to his work out. Is that something you picked up ?
AW: I mean, we can also have a competition pushing another guy. We have to root for each other, we’re teammates. But we also have to compete against each other as well. The thing we’ve been doing after practice is something we did in Dallas and it’s- see how many three’s you can make out 25, shoot a hundred and our goal is to make 18 out of 25 every time. Bringing that to him and also letting him know that Dirk used make 22 and Jason Terry used to make 22- it shows him how hard it is to be successful in this league.
TPP: As a veteran, is that kind of your role, to step up and grab a guy like Casspi who’s got great potential and show him the ropes.
AW: Absolutely, because even in games where I’m not going to play as much, and he’s going to play, he’s going to have to set the tone because he might get early fouls but if he’s been out there wearing his guy down, when I come in he can pass the baton to me and vise versa. That’s the way it has to work for a team to be successful.
TPP: You’ve had spotty playing time throughout the pre-season is that wearing on you?
AW: I mean, it’s a little frustrating but as a player we can’t worry about things we can’t control. And thing that we can control is putting ourselves in a position to be successful by coming here, shooting, showing the coach I know the plays and that I’m ready.
TPP: You and Coach Westphal have a previous relationship from your time together in Dallas. Has that helped your cause at all? Did you come here as a veteran player to do the little things or are you here to fight for a starting job?
AW: Every player in the NBA is selfish. We wouldn’t be here if we weren’t. We all want to play. We all want to start. We all want all the minutes, so from that stand point, that’s never going to change with anyone. But in a team role, Westphal has been open in telling me that right now, where I’m at and where my role is, that I can work my way up so and that’s all you really want to hear as a player.
TPP: Does it matter if you are playing the small forward or the two?
AW: I don’t think that in our offense that position is really that important unless Tyreke or Beno is in the game- then I’ll be playing the three. I think it’s pretty interchangeable.
TPP: Watching you play in the pre-season and in your career, you are pretty close to an elite wing defender. Last year Westphal used Udoka in that role and you are like an eight inch longer Udoka. Is that your role, to come in and be a defensive stopper?
AW: That’s been my role on every team I’ve been on and hopefully here, I can push some of these guys and teach them the tricks of the trade so that we can become a better defensive team.
TPP: You played big minutes in Dallas and you started 50 games for a team that won 50 games. And then you go to Toronto and now Sacramento, neither of which are of the quality of a Dallas. How do you adjust from that, to fighting for minutes with a couple of really young players on a team like the Kings that hasn’t been very successful lately?
AW: I think it’s a situation where those guys were drafted here. The organization has made an investment in them and they want their guys to do well. That’s important. For me, the thing is, that it’s a little frustrating at times because I feel like I can bring more to the table and more to the team but it’s an 82 game season and you just have to be ready when your time comes.
Antoine Wright comes off as intense and serious. While these traits are evident even through this interview, he is also thoughtful and funny. I’m not so sure that Antoine knew what he was getting in to when he signed on to be a Sacramento King. The team is young and although Wright is only 26 years old, the skill set he possesses is probably better served on a team fighting for a playoff spot. There may come a time this season when Wright becomes an important rotational player for the Kings but the young tandem of Donté Greene and Omri Casspi are going to soak up most of the minutes early on.