The Wright Moves

A straight-from-high-school phenom stays intimate with the Heat bench

Dorell Wright is prone to bold announcements. The sinewy forward leapfrogged college for the NBA in 2004 to become the youngest Heat player of all time. But the announcement that shocked roommate Derrick Clark came last November, when Wright declared, "Yo, I'm going to cook Thanksgiving."

Clark knew his best friend could hoop with the best in the world. He just didn't think the kid could do turkey. "I was like, 'You ain't goin' cook!'" Clark says. "I just couldn't believe it. I was trying to picture him picking up a pan, and I can't see it. I can't see him bending over, looking under the cabinet for a pan. I can't see it, bro. Not at all."

Wright asked whether Clark would pick up the food, e-mailing him a grocery list teeming with ambition. "He wants cranberry sauce. He wants sweet potato pie. He wants turkey. Stuffing. Yams... I was like, 'All right, yeah, I'm gonna go get all this for you. I got you. I can't wait for you to cook all this. '"

REUTERS/Marc Serota
REUTERS/Marc Serota
AP PHOTO/David Adame, FILE
Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/KRT
The Heat's youngest player of all time wins prime minutes only when teammates  (and Riley) are injured.
Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/KRT
The Heat's youngest player of all time wins prime minutes only when teammates (and Riley) are injured.
Sorry, Luol Deng. Wright's got this one secure.
UPI Photo/Brian Kersey
Sorry, Luol Deng. Wright's got this one secure.
Dorell Wright can learn a lot from his good friend Dwyane Wade.
Dorell Wright can learn a lot from his good friend Dwyane Wade.
Wright could become a top player in the NBA — if he could get into the game.
Wright could become a top player in the NBA — if he could get into the game.

When Clark returned from shopping, Wright was still at practice. Clark called him up. "I'm like, 'Yo, by the time you get here, it's goin' be Thanksgiving already. What food you goin' be cooking?'"

That's when ambition gave way to reality. "He like, 'Yo, I know, why don't you go ahead and just cook it for me?'" says Clark, laughing. "I'm like, 'Wait, wait, wait. This wasn't part of the plan. I didn't sign up for this. '"

Clark, with the help of two friends, cooked Thanksgiving dinner, and judging by all the clean plates that came back, Clark guesses it turned out well.

That's life at the Coconut Grove condo shared by these two former high school basketball teammates. Wright makes the money. Clark takes care of the details.

Clark's also the storyteller, and that talent is on full display as he conducts a tour of his and Wright's sizable and comfortable home. Clark can't tell the Dorell Wright story without telling his own.

He began hearing the name Dorell Wright around South Central L.A., where they both grew up, when he was 12. Apparently, Wright was a very good football player. Then, as an 11th-grader, Wright showed up in Clark's high school gym as almost an afterthought. He had transferred to the high school to play baseball. Wright had never had formal basketball coaching but was tall, athletic, and confident, and Clark — the team's captain — took him under his wing. The two started working out together, and Clark was floored by Wright's potential. He introduced Wright to his Amateur Athletic Union coach, who immediately invited Wright to join the team.

Wright grew to six-foot-eight. Clark stayed five-foot-eleven. Wright went to prep school, where college coaches, then NBA scouts, flocked to him. Clark went to a community college, then a junior college, where his team was plagued with injuries.

In February 2005, Wright invited Clark to visit him in Miami, where he got to see his friend dress and play in the first game of his NBA career. Before that, Wright had been in a suit. Clark — apparently a good-luck charm — hasn't left Miami since.

Now, Clark watches from a prime seat as his best friend, whose talent he discovered and nurtured, lives their dream.


Well, sort of. Apparently once you get to the NBA, the dream gets more specific.

For Dorell Wright, becoming a first-round NBA draft pick meant a three-year, $3-million-plus contract, a Nike contract, a sweet condo in the Grove, 100-plus pairs of shoes, and hero status among all who know him. But that won't help him start basketball games. Wright, who's 21 now, has languished on the Heat bench for the better part of three seasons, upsetting his supporters and stagnating his development. His patience has been rewarded only periodically, when other players get injured. Wright seems to handle this as well as any young athlete could, but with his career and millions of dollars on the line, you better believe he's upset.

His plight goes to the larger issue of how inexperienced young men adjust to a highly public, pressurized environment like the NBA. "In a lot of ways, they're like a lot of spoiled kids," former NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said recently in an online interview. Abdul-Jabbar thinks the straight-out-of-high-school scenario is a crap shoot for a lot of kids who know little about the world. "When somebody drops $20 million in their laps," he says, "it's going to have an effect on their egos."

Of course, for the born stars like Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett, making the transition seems as effortless as a swished jump shot. Others, like Jonathan Bender, Korleone Young, and Leon Smith, have found themselves deflected, respectively, into injuries, Europe, and a psychiatric ward. Remember them? Didn't think so.

For Wright, the jump seems to be bouncing lightly from one side of the rim to the other. Will it drop? Impossible to say, but he's certainly got the crowd at the edge of its seat.

Wright was not interviewed for this article, largely because Miami Heat owner Micky Arison is holding a grudge against New Times after Miami New Times called Arison a "Greedy Corporate Pig" in two headlines in 1996. So New Times pays face value for Heat tickets, and our press box is at row 21, section 324, of American Airlines Arena, where it takes binoculars to find number one — the "Wrighteous One," as his teammates call him — sitting on a bench in the April 3 game against the Toronto Raptors.

Jason Kapono — the most efficient three-point shooter in the league — has recovered from an ankle sprain, and since he plays small forward like Wright, Wright sits. Even without Kapono, Wright had played only 87 seconds in the previous two games. With home-court advantage in the playoffs at stake, it seemed clear that Wright hadn't yet earned the trust of Head Coach Pat Riley.

This is the downside to landing on a team of accomplished veterans who make championship-title runs. It's meant Wright hasn't had the opportunity he might have had if, say, Shaq, James Posey, Antoine Walker, and Gary Payton hadn't come to the Heat soon after he was drafted. It's also meant he gets to learn from them — in practice if not in games.

In his first season with the Heat, Wright played in only three games, scoring just seven points. He fared slightly better in the second season, playing in 20 games for an average of six minutes each. During this season, Wright's third, a few teammates got injured and Wright got his chance.

For 19 games, Wright was in the starting lineup and showed promise: several double-doubles and a few snazzy dunks, and he hustled like crazy. But his jump shot was erratic, and as teammates stepped up, Wright fell behind; in early January, he lost his starting spot. Since then, his playing time has been spotty. Some games, he'll be on the court for 30 minutes. Others, he'll get no time.

NBA rule makers recognized the plight of the unfulfilled prep star. Last year, they required that draftees must be a year out of high school and at least 19 years old. The new rule is meant to protect promising players from being drafted before they're ready, then falling flat, losing confidence, and ruining what might have been extensive NBA careers.

Coaches and scouts say they'd be surprised if there wasn't a place for Wright's unreal athleticism, pterodactyl wingspan, and diversified skill set somewhere in the league. It took Jermaine O'Neal a couple of seasons on the bench, then being traded, before he became a Pacers standout. It takes an emotionally resilient player to do this, but the consensus is that Wright is in the NBA to stay.


On a sleepy, tree-lined Coconut Grove block, there's a $475,000 condo, previously occupied by former Heat journeyman post player Malik Allen, now with the Chicago Bulls. As of October, it has been the home of Dorell Wright.

Most of the two-story condos on the block have red-tiled, Spanish-style roofs, stucco siding, metal gates out front, and wooden fences separating them from their neighbors. Wright's gate is open, and one can walk right in, past his white Range Rover with blacked-out windows, chrome rims, and "D. Wright Way" inscribed in black paint above the right taillight.

Wright's not here now. He's actually in the middle of an away game against the Indiana Pacers, which I'm hoping to watch with his roommate. But, it turns out, Clark hasn't been watching Heat games lately, and he doesn't want to watch this one.

He opens the door and extends a hand made for basketball — long dexterous fingers and wide, warm palm. Clark has close-cropped hair and a neatly trimmed mustache, with a few coiled hairs protruding from his chin. He's the picture of an athlete at rest — black Nike shorts, a black T-shirt, and white ankle-length sports socks.

The walk to the living room takes guests across the beige tiled foyer floor and through the generous and formal sitting room. Perched at the kitchen counter is Nicole Hutchinson, a willowy and stunning 23-year-old from Parkland who is taking shots of Patron Citronage, one of about five types of Patron sitting on the kitchen counter. If you're wondering whether Wright and Clark listen to Jay-Z, who boosted Patron's sales tenfold with its mention in "Show Me What You Got," the answer is yes. They're also into Lil Wayne, Nas, and T.I.

"It tastes like Kool-Aid, don't it?" Clark says. He and Hutchinson, who met after one of Wright's games, are just friends. Tonight, she's got a party to hit, and as she leaves, I ask her if there's anything she'd like to mention about Wright. "He goofy," she says, flashing a mischievous, knockout smile.

I take a seat on Wright's black leather couch, which faces a 60-inch flat-screen television — smaller than what they wanted, actually. To Clark's chagrin, Georgetown is beating Vanderbilt. To the right of the television is Wright's desk, where pictures of his friends and family surround his laptop computer, lit up by its current screensaver — a picture of his reverse dunk against the Magic.

Wright changes the screensaver pretty often and takes unabashed pleasure in his own image. In fact, Clark recently discovered a camera full of Wright close-ups taken in his Range Rover. "I caught him taking a photo session of himself!" he says, giggling.

Like the Thanksgiving story, though, there's no spite in this disclosure. For all the good-natured ribbing, Clark seems almost protective of Wright. Asked why he isn't watching the Heat game, Clark says: "I know they're going to win, but they're not putting my boy in. D. Wade ain't playing either."

By this point, Clark says, the two know each other so well that they can practically read each other's minds. That synchronicity comes with spending nearly every second together that Wright's not at practice or a game. They eat at the Cheesecake Factory together. They drink Patron together. They go out in the Grove together. When they're both in the house, they're almost always in the same room.

Wright's room is the master bedroom — a large upstairs room adorned, predictably, with only a framed photo of Wright along with a framed poster of a hand palming a basketball and a key to the City of Miami in the far corner. He got that when the Heat won the NBA championship last year.

Wright's bed looks way too small for his six-foot-eight frame, and Clark explains he'll be getting a giant new one soon that will allow him to "roll over four times." He's got a fenced-in balcony that faces the street. Clark's room overlooks the backyard and the pool, which is about six feet long and wide and three feet deep — measurements ample enough for Clark but not for his roomie.

"I don't know why they put this back here," Clark says. "They should have just gave us a Jacuzzi. For a guy who's six-eight, he can't do nothing in there."

Although Clark's room is considerably smaller, this is where the young men usually find themselves hanging out. Wright often sits on the far corner of the bed, watching Clark play video games, talking on the phone, and making jokes. Asked if they're best friends, Clark shakes his head.

"Whatever he needs, I'll do. Whatever I need, he'll do," he says. "Friends come and go, but you can always count on your brothers, so that's why I look at it more like a brothership."

Although they have an NBA-financed chef to prepare their food and a maid to clean and do the laundry, Clark seems to have taken on the role of surrogate mother. He sets Wright's alarm clock for him and makes sure he gets up around 8:45 each morning. When they had a dog (Boomer, a bulldog), it was Clark who fed and walked him. Clark even helps Wright pick his outfits.

"On game days, he calls me in here, and this is what we do. We look. We look for something to wear," Clark says as he shows me Wright's mammoth walk-around closet, with a shoe island in the center containing what looks like 100 pairs of mostly Jordans. "We try to mix and match, mix and match. We try to make sure it ain't nothing we done wore before. Well, he done wore before. I don't know why I'm saying we..."


To see Wright warm up, words like springy and childlike come to mind. Throughout the Raptors pregame, he blows giant pink bubbles, hangs on the rim, challenges sterner-looking players to shoot over him, and affectionately cups the backs of people's heads. By the end of the night, he will have cupped almost every one of his teammates' heads.

When the game starts, Wright takes his place in the penultimate seat of the bench.

With 10:31 remaining in the first quarter, he blows a bubble.

At 9:55, another bubble. He has a bovine way of chewing, and from the upper deck, even with binoculars, it's hard to tell whether it bothers Gary Payton or Alonzo Mourning, between whom he is sandwiched. He looks really small, sitting there with his elbows resting on his knees.

At 7:45, he takes his gum out of his mouth and quickly puts it behind him.

At 6:30, he's chewing again, but there are no bubbles — a sign of discontent?

No, when the buzzer for the quarter sounds, Wright jumps up and gives all the players five. If he's getting worried about how many minutes he'll see tonight, he's not showing it, at least not yet. He appears outwardly thrilled that Jason Kapono came off the bench and hit three jumpers in a row. The Heat leads 30-25.

With 11:23 left in the second quarter, Wright puts the black cutoff shirt he's wearing over his jersey in his mouth. Then he lets it fall.

At 9:37, he requests a new piece of gum, and a Heat trainer gets it for him. He tosses the wrapper behind him.

At 5:39, Wade cups Wright's head. Then Wright cups Jason Williams' head.

For a good portion of the second quarter, Wright chats with Jason Williams, and it looks like Williams may be giving him pointers. The Heat steadily builds a lead, which might up Wright's chances of getting in the game.

Now 3:31. If there's a time he'll get in, it's now. Wright sits back in his chair and crosses his arms.

The minutes wind down, and at the end of the half, still on the bench, Wright blows a giant bubble. The team exits the floor, leading 56-45, and Wright cups the back of fellow benchwarmer Michael Doleac's head.

For most of the third quarter, more bubbles are blown, and not much else is happening.

With 2:14 left, Wright blows a really big one. This one pops a little on his face, and he tongues it off his cheek.

Now there's 1:30 left. Wright and Antoine Walker are laughing hysterically. At the end of the third, the score is 73-67.

In the fourth, Wright watches his team barely hold on to win. Without him. He claps often and even stands in support every now and then. As he leaves the floor, a bit of the spring has gone out of his step.

Riley recently declared Wright, along with Wade, the future of the team, but judging by the dearth of number-one jerseys in American Airlines Arena (Wright appears to be the only one wearing one), the fans aren't so sure.

The Heat seems to want to promote Wright. He's the current feature of a four-part Sun TV series that gives a cursory look into Wright's life, emphasizing his fun, glossing over his frustration.

Walking around Miami Beach with Heat sportscaster Jason Jackson in the videos, Wright comes off as confident, happy-go-lucky, and a little goofy. When they encounter a passing parade, Wright playfully joins it, marching in step. He's got a way of keeping things light, suggesting some idyllic California childhood, which is exactly what he had.


Wright started playing hoops at Jesse Owens Park in a gang-infested section of South Central Los Angeles when he was just 4 years old. He practically swam in his jersey, but he was already a fierce competitor. In his first rec game, before the referee could toss the ball for the jump, Wright stole it away and attempted to score. His friends still tease him about it.

During the summers of his youth, Wright tagged along with older friends to the park. Wright, his oldest friend Jonathan Green, Green's brother, and another friend would wake up at sunrise and head to the park, skipping and singing "This is the song that never ends." They'd get louder and louder, aiming to wake and provoke the neighbors. At the park, they'd shoot hoops, then swim, then shoot more hoops.

Jonathan Green remembers how Wright was the youngest in the group by two years but how, seemingly overnight, the kid learned to dribble between his legs and move with a lean agility that reminded him of a young Penny Hardaway. His body seemed to have an inborn understanding of the game.

Not everybody recognized Wright's gifts. He sat on the bench his freshman year at Washington High School and saw only two games in tenth grade. There's no telling where Wright would be now if Derrick Clark hadn't taken him under his wing at Leuzinger, then introduced Wright to his AAU coach.

Erik Harden had been Clark's AAU coach for two years and had come to appreciate his player's opinion. So in late 2001, when Clark said, "Coach, there's a kid you gotta see," Harden took it seriously.

"I knew Derrick had a good eye for talent," he said. "He's probably the smartest player I've ever coached. He was always an extension of me out on the basketball court. Without me telling him, he always knew what plays to call."

When Harden finally got a look at Wright, then an 11th-grader at Leuzinger High School, he nearly fell over. Leuzinger — a school not known then for its basketball — lost that night by 40, but Harden couldn't take his eyes off Wright.

"I saw legs. I saw arms. I saw hands. I saw an eager beaver. And I said, 'This could be a player,'" he recalls. "That kid could scratch his ankles walking down the street."

After the game, Harden approached Wright, who was pouting over the loss. "I said, 'I don't care nothing about this game here. I want you. If you want to play with me and if you're serious with me, I'll be serious with you. If you stick with me, I guarantee you, you'll go to the college of your choice. '"

Later that week, Harden called up Dorell's father, Ray Wright, and persuaded him to let Dorell play AAU basketball. Even at just 15 years old, Wright dominated, and Harden started making phone calls to coaches across the nation.

Meanwhile, Clark switched high schools his senior year so he could be on a basketball team with a chance to win the state tournament. He and Marcus Williams (now of the New Jersey Nets) were the guards for Crenshaw High School — an electric combination.

Clark could get to the hoop at will, but what Harden remembers most fondly is that defense, how Clark seemed to relish harassing the other team till it turned the ball over. Darren Collison, who starred for UCLA in last month's NCAA tournament, looked like Little Bo' Peep by comparison, Harden remembers. If only Clark hadn't stopped growing...

Before he could realize his NCAA dreams, Clark would have to play at Indian Hills, an Iowa community college. A groin injury was the first setback, winter homesickness the second. "They put a city boy in the snow," Clark says.

He went back to California, enrolling at L.A. Harbor College, and played basketball for a year. He did well, but injuries derailed the team and shortened its season.

At the same time, Clark's friend from AAU was blowing up. Wright had become an unstoppable scorer and rebounder, people were saying. And he seemed to be focused on playing college ball.

There was a problem, though. Wright — never much concerned with school — needed better grades, and he also wanted to get more exposure. He could get both at South Kent, a prep school in Connecticut. There, he opened and closed the gym every night, determined to improve his game. When the season started, the word of Wright's dominance began to spread.

"He was definitely feared," South Kent Assistant Coach Owen Finberg says. "At any point, he was somebody that could put 30 or 40 points on you."

Versatility was his game. He would hit the jumper and beat people to the basket. He could defend. He could block shots. He was easily South Kent's best player and the focal point of its offense.

"Other teams would have to prepare for him," Finberg said.

Wright was named MVP of the National Prep School Invitational and an All-Time Jordan Brand All-American at the Jordan Classic, an all-star game for the top high school seniors in the country. Coaches and recruiters nationwide noticed, and he visited the University of Southern California, the University of Iowa, Long Beach State, and DePaul University.

But those schools were out of their league — literally. Though Wright would eventually give a verbal commitment to DePaul, he couldn't put his NBA aspirations on hold — especially since scouts seemed convinced that if he took "the jump," he'd make a soft landing in the draft's first round.

Still, these inducements conflicted with the advice of most of the people in Wright's inner circle. His Leuzinger High School coach, Reggie Morris, had played college ball at Howard University, and he didn't want Wright missing out on a similarly rich experience. Wright's mom wanted very much for her son to be the first member of their family to attend college. He told her he would go back later, probably for kinesthesiology.

Clark suggested a compromise: Try college for one year. "Nope," Wright said. "I think I got it." The NBA, that is.


It wasn't that his family needed the money. Wright was raised in a middle-class suburban cul-de-sac six blocks east of Inglewood.

The Wrights' place was always called "the Kool-Aid house," because kids practically busted through the walls.

It's where the family has lived since Wright was 5 years old, and his friends, along with friends of his younger brother, Delon, and younger sister, Denae, made it their hangout base. They wanted to be around Wright, his basketball hoop, and his family. Stacy and Ray Wright had been happily married and working the same jobs for 20 years — he as a carpenter and she as a clerk typist for the LAPD. They knew how to throw a party.

On the night of the 2004 NBA draft, the block was lined with the cars of about 100 friends and family. Wright, then 18 years old, had requested this party just three days before. "I want all my friends over," Stacy Wright remembers being told. "Make potato salad. Order chicken." Stacy Wright even got her hair blown out for the occasion.

The house began to fill up at 1 o'clock, and the tension was palpable. If Wright didn't get chosen till the second round, he'd wind up with just a one-year contract, millions less than he'd get in the first round. For this reason, college is widely considered a better option than becoming a second-round draft pick.

But if you can be picked in the NBA draft — even in the second round — it's a considerable gamble to enroll at a university. Players sometimes get injured in college or fall miles short of their potential.

Besides, players like Wright had made it this far by being aggressive, by proving they're ready before everybody else thinks they are. Players like him don't let opportunities slip by.

Stacy Wright remembers how Dorell jumped from room to room and seat to seat, chatting and taking phone calls from former coaches and friends who couldn't be there. After what seemed like hours of watching other high school stars like Dwight Howard and Shaun Livingston get drafted, pick 19 arrived for the Miami Heat. Dorell Wright's name was called, and the Kool-Aid house erupted.

Derrick Clark hit the ceiling with everybody else. His friend Dorell had made the NBA — it seemed surreal.

In February 2005, after Wright had set himself up in Miami, Wright invited Clark and Harden down for a visit. They went to three games, which by sheer coincidence were the first games for which Wright was in uniform. They watched his career debut against the Chicago Bulls. Clark and Harden seemed to have brought good luck, and when Harden left, Clark stayed a little longer. Then a little longer.

Junior college couldn't compete with this lifestyle. Clark put school aside to live with Wright, helping his friend with the everyday chores of adulthood. With his spare time, Clark worked on starting a nonprofit AAU team. Asked why he did so, Clark's answer is practically a knee jerk.

"Because he asked me to."


Like a clown fish and a sea anemone, or an Egyptian plover and a crocodile, there is an elegant symbiosis to Clark and Wright's relationship. Clark gets to piggyback on Wright's NBA career. Wright gets the care and support he needs at home. And, God knows, he's needed it.

Sitting on the bench was hard enough. Going from high school hero to NBA nobody was devastating. In his rookie season, when the game NBA Live came out on Playstation II, the "Wright" player was difficult to maneuver and didn't have any skills. All of Wright's friends took notice, and some got mad.

"I wasn't going to enjoy the game knowing they have my friend not up to his potential," Green says. When he asked Wright what he thought of the game, his answer was simple. "Hey, man, I don't like that game."

"I don't either," Green said, and he returned it.

Wright's mom spent hours with him on the phone and flew from California to comfort him as often as possible. Heat veteran guard Eddie Jones even told the Palm Beach Post he heard Wright say, "I should have just went to college." The bench was that tough.

When Wright would come home after having not played, Clark, the ever-attentive roommate, could recognize immediately, from a look in his eye, that he needed a boost.

"I don't let him get down," Clark says. "If I ever see him down, I try to cheer him up or I ask him if he want to go do something... When he gets mad, I was like, 'Yo, let's get tattoos.' That always cheered him up."

The "let's"is actually another example of Clark referring to Wright in the plural. Clark never got tattoos, just Wright. Once he was in Prides Tattoo in Miami Beach for more than five hours getting just one.

"Yeah, now he's running out of space," Clark says.

Since he entered the NBA, Wright has gotten himself nearly 30 tattoos. (He's got 31 total.) If you haven't noticed that in the game, it's because his mother asked him not to tattoo his neck or his biceps, and so far, he's respected her wish.

When Dorell first started tattooing himself, Stacy Wright was upset. But soon, he got a tattoo of her glamour-shot photo on his right forearm. She's in French braids and a fur cover-up, and underneath, it says "World's Greatest Mom." She couldn't exactly complain about that one.

Wright got his first tattoo in high school on his right arm. It says "PUSH," which stands for "Play Until Something Happens." He's got WWJD on a wrist. When he got drafted by the Heat, he got BLESSED down his leg. All are in green ink. Though Wright is not very religious, many of the others are biblical. Stacy Wright says she's thankful for that; still, it's clear she has an aversion.

"Oh my God, is it 31?" she says when she learns the current number. "I stopped counting 'cause I don't like to look at them."

She told him that he was a professional now and that when he got older, it wouldn't look good. But then she found out why he was getting them.

"That was keeping him strong in the beginning of his career because he wasn't playing much," she said.

At the time Wright was getting all the tattoos, his mother was taking a college course in psychology. Somebody made a presentation about kids who deal with pain by cutting themselves and how tattoos were related to that. Stacy Wright called her son immediately and asked if he was getting the tattoos to deal with his emotional pain. He told her yes.

"That was his little outlet," she says, sounding worried.

Wright is still hanging out at the tattoo parlor about twice a week, according to somebody who answers the phones at Gallery Prides.

It's not surprising, considering he has gotten few minutes in recent games. When Dwyane Wade came back for the Hornets game, Wright wound up back in a suit. Though he played in subsequent games, it appears unlikely that Wright is part of Riley's playoff plans.

"The current situation is not the desired state," said Calvin Andrews, Wright's agent. "He [Wright] also understands that it's the situation he's in. He will work hard to improve his situation."

Then Andrews brings up the obvious point that being Dorell Wright is still pretty awesome.

"If your biggest problem is you're not playing, you don't have problems," Andrews says. "If your biggest problem in life is that you didn't play in last night's game, you have a great life. You need people to bring you back, keep things relative to the real world."

There's a brutal little piece of reality hanging above Clark's bed that Wright sees almost every day. It's a painting of a man, crouched and looking out over a long, tortuous trail. At the man's side, an arrow-shaped sign reads "To the pros."

Asked whether playing in the NBA was one of his dreams, Clark says: "It was. My bones is crackin' now, so I sit back and watch. Now these kids 20 years old coming out of high school are ready to play in the NBA. That's what they're looking for. They looking for young talents. I can still play, but they ain't trying to take me, and not for no millions."

By early April, with Wright riding the pine, Clark has stopped taking reporter's calls, as has the Wright family. If the Heat franchise has plans to promote Wright as a future star, those plans are on hold.

It's too late, then, to ask Clark whether he feels jealous of Wright; but Coach Harden is qualified to answer. "I don't think there's any animosity," he says. "I think he [Clark] really appreciates being there and that Dorell has allowed him to come and share his life with him."

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