OAKLAND — Some have referred to him as a "potential breakout candidate," a young player on the verge of becoming something special. Others have dubbed him "the forgotten man."
Whatever the description, it's been quite the tightrope walk for Warriors power forward Brandan Wright.
"I'm just trying to showcase what I can do, play hard, be aggressive and make things happen for the team," said Wright, now in his second year in the NBA. "I want to bring an aspect to the team that we didn't have last year or I didn't bring last year."
Based on how training camp has gone, doing so will require an ongoing effort. Wright is competing with rookie Anthony Randolph for minutes in the backup power forward spot. Though Warriors coach Don Nelson still deemed it an "interesting competition," he said Tuesday that Wright is behind in the race.
"It hasn't been close," Nelson said. "Brandan's got a bad toe right now, and that's held him back. But it hasn't been close so far."
Wright had four points in nine minutes during Sunday's exhibition game against the New Orleans Hornets. Randolph, by comparison, scored six points in 18 minutes. Always a straight shooter, Nelson didn't hold back when asked what needs to happen for Wright to get more time.
"We need Wright to be more aggressive, there's no question about it," he said. "He needs to show he's a good player. It's his second year; I expect more out of him. He's got to start stepping up."
Wright, who turned 21 on Sunday, showed flashes of that aggressiveness during Tuesday's practice. He took center Andris Biedrins strong to the basket on one sequence and corralled an offensive rebound for a putback on another.
Then, with the team's organized workout long in the books, Wright remained on the floor, working with Warriors assistant coach Keith Smart on a series of low-post maneuvers and spin moves.
"He needs to develop that habit of being aggressive," Smart said. "At our level, you're rewarded when you're the aggressor first. Brandan, when he gets on the floor with (Corey) Maggette, Al (Harrington) and Jack (Stephen Jackson) and you don't have Monta (Ellis) or Baron (Davis) there, he has to figure out, 'Where do I fit into this wheel? Am I passive, am I the aggressor? What do I do?' The game he's playing right now, more than anything, is a game against himself."
Wright, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2007 draft, endured a tough rookie campaign last season in which he saw limited action after being acquired in a deal that sent star Jason Richardson to Charlotte. Once in the Bay Area, he played in 38 games, made six starts, and averaged 4.0 points and 2.6 rebounds in just 9.9 minutes a game.
It was a trying existence that Wright didn't necessarily expect.
"Everyone wants to play, but it's always a process when you come in," Wright said. "I thought I did some good things. Hopefully, I can continue that this year."
Note: Nelson said he plans to cut two players from the training camp roster before the team leaves for China on Saturday night. The Warriors will play exhibition games against the Milwaukee Bucks in Guangzhou on Oct. 15 and in Beijing on Oct. 18.
Contact Jennifer Starks at firstname.lastname@example.org.