In only his third NBA season, Larry Wright is in the process of rewrighting his future in pro basketball.
Of all the scintillating performances that have marked the Bullets' start this season, none has been more impressive than Wright's. And none probably has been as welcomed by the team.
Not that Wright has ever lacked the talent to be a fine NBA player. But predictions about his career always were qualified because of his rollercoaster emotions.
Perhaps no other Bullet benefitted more from the eurphoria surrounding the clun's title-capturing play of last season. In the emotional atmosphere of last summer, Wright learned how to be calm.
He realized how detrimental extreme emotions - whether high or low - could be to his showings. And he convinced himself to stop worrying about whether he should be starting or whether he should be starting or whether his minutes should increase. He ceased being desperate about his standing with the team. Instead, became condident.
"I decided I was a pro. That's what I wanted to be and that's how I wanted to play," he said. "I tried not to fight things but I was. I had trouble grasping what my role was on the team and it bothered me for a while.
"Now. I'm just going to play the game and not worry about what's happening to me. That's how a profissional goes about it. I know I'm good and I know I can play in this league. Everything else is out of my hands."
He has translated that pep talk into a remarkable start. Before, he hesitated to shoot when he was in the game as a playmaker. Now, he is putting up that soft, radar jump shot at the first hint of an opening. In the process, even his ballhanding has improved.
Through the first three games, he has committed only three turnovers in 72 minutes. He has made 67 percent of his 24 shots and 84 percent of his 13 free throws while contributing eight steals. I has been a near-flawless showing; but just as importantly, he has given a spark to the team off the bench.
"I now my duties involve making sure the team's offense runs right," Wright said. "But that doesn't mean I shouldn't look for my shot, too. If it's there, I'm putting it up. I'm a shooter no matter what position I'm playing, and I have to remember that.
"Now I realize that if one thing isn't working, then I have to try something else. I can't limit myself. I feel I'm playing with a free spirit. I don't worry anymore about whether I should run the offense or shoot. Larry Wright is just going to do anything it takes to win."
Last October, Wright was considered one of the team's shining lights. His rookie season had been so impressive that it had caught the eye of he master little guard himself, Bob Cousy.
"I thought he was simple. Wright was confused. He had trouble grasping his role on the team. His once-comfortable position as a pepper-pot substitute was now being harnessed into the tighter restrictions of a backup paymaker. He was convinced referees were calling fouls on him too quickly. He wasn't sure if he had a future anymore with the team. He would laugh one minute and brood the next.
Suddenly, he no longer was the third guard. His playing time decreased, his defensive liabilities were exposed and his name was not mentioned nearly as frequently in discussions about the club's future.
With his talents all headed in the same direction, Wright is something to behold on the court. "I can't believe how quick he is ," said former American University Coach Jim Lynam after watching him against Philadelphia Wednesday night. " He just explodes out there. He makes it awfully tough to definse their attack with the way he moves."
Wright is the quickest of the Bullets, the one person who can ignite their fast break on a consistent basis. He can turn offensive thrusts into running opportunities just on the strength of being able to beat three-quarters of the league's personnel down the floor.
The endings to these head-long dashes are also somethibg to watch. Wright seems to be able to switch into a fifth, wooosh gear when he wants to penetrate for a layup. He covers the distance from the foul line to the basket with remarkable speed and he isn't choosy as to which hand to use to finish off his forays among the giants.
It's a marvelous set of gifts, which still have not been developed to their full potential. "The more he accepts what he is doing, the better he is going to be," said Coach Dick Motta. "He seems to want to do the things to make the offense function properly, which is a good sign.
"There is an air and confidence about him this year that is encouraging. I think winning the title has a lot to do with it. He has faith in what we are doing because he knows it works."
Wright still has outbursts at questionable calls and his defense needs more consistency. But now Motta can envision him as a more coachable, better-shooting Kevin Porter. And Bullet fans do not need to be reminded about what Porter meant to Washington.
But much like Porter, Wright doesn't want his emotions to go on a permanent vacation. His effercescence and love of the game are what makes him a unique player. Whether it's a dull practive layup drill or a crucial last-munute free throw, Wright approaches every situation with the same kind of enthusiasm.
"I plan to be aroung a long time," Wright said. "It's important to look at the long range aspect of my career. You can get mixed up thinking about roles and all thaat. So now I'm just playing. That's how I've always liked it, anyway."