Amid NBA labor woes, former Georgetown star Chris Wright is in a holding pattern

May 16, 2011

Until the NBA draft, former Georgetown point guard Chris Wright will work out on his own and in front of teams in hopes that one of them will call his name June 23 at Prudential Center in Newark. 

But should the NBA and its players’ association continue on their current path, little will change in Wright’s schedule after that, whether he is drafted or not. The league’s collective bargaining agreement is set to expire June 30, and unless a new agreement is reached before then, the NBA could experience its first work stoppage in 13 years.

So Wright — widely considered a fringe draft prospect — stands in an unenviable position: He must wait and sweat, literally and figuratively, for the opportunity to wait and sweat a little longer.

“Say the draft happens June 23, then the lockout happens, what am I going to do?” said Wright, a Bowie native who was a McDonald’s all-American at St. John’s High. “I just got to work out. I’m not comparing myself to anyone, but just like guys in the [NBA], working out and getting ready.”

Wright already has participated in two team workouts – for the Washington Wizards and at a combine session hosted by the New Jersey Nets – and plans to take part in more in the coming weeks. Wright was not among the 54 players invited to attend the league-wide combine in Chicago, which begins Wednesday.

The feedback Wright received from his first two workouts was positive but not overwhelmingly so, the player and one of his agents said. Wright said NBA teams have been “intrigued” by his execution of pick-and-rolls, especially because such a tactic seldom was used in Georgetown’s system. They like his 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame, according to Wright, though they’ve told him he needs to shoot the ball more accurately and become a better defender.

Wright “is not a bulldog on defense, and that’s something for a guy his size, he’s going to have to be if he’s going to be successful in our league or to make it in our league,” said a scout from a Western Conference NBA team, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about pre-draft prospects. “You have to say, ‘If you want me to get up and pressure guys and stick my nose into guys, that’s what I’ll do.’  

“Chris Wright doesn’t strike me as that type of guy. If he’s on the floor and there’s a loose ball, he’s going to let you get it and he’s going to be standing there as the outlet. But he could be on somebody’s roster.”

The scout called Wright “a solid point guard” with “a pretty decent IQ.” And the scout did not believe Wright’s left (non-shooting) hand, which Wright broke in late February, will be a deterrent for NBA teams that might consider drafting him. Wright said his hand no longer causes him any pain.

Should Wright impress a team enough for it to draft him, that likely would not occur until late in the second round. Players drafted between picks Nos. 45 and 60 stand a lower chance of receiving a guaranteed deal. None of this year’s draft picks will sign agreements with their respective teams before a new CBA is reached.

Mike Kneisley, one of Wright’s agents, said Wright’s post-draft options – regardless of whether a team calls his name June 23 – may include waiting and training in the United States in hopes that the lockout is brief, playing in a European league or playing in the NBA Development League. And not even all of those choices are secure.  

Multiple league sources expressed doubt late last week as to whether the NBDL would exist next season. In a telephone interview Friday afternoon, NBDL President Dan Reed said “our plan is to play, and that’s unrelated to the status of the NBA collective bargaining agreement negotiations.” 

Wright said he understands he has no control over whether a lockout occurs or how long it might last. But he knows that eventually, the NBA will return to business, and so he is preparing himself accordingly. On Friday, he began practicing his shooting by 6:45 a.m., participated in a boxing class at 8:30 and took part in a strength and agility workout with DeMatha boys’ basketball strength coach Alan Stein at 11.

“It all depends,” Wright said about what he may do after the draft. “Right now, I can’t say I would go here or I would go there. The goal is to play in the NBA. That’s my goal; that’s my dream. But if there are things that cancel out or I can’t get into the NBA, then I’ll go a different route. As of right now, I just got to do what I have to do to try to get to the league. That’s the first option. That’s Plan A, and I’m going after it.”

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