Sophomore Stars: Julian Wright Is Focused on Defense, Ready to Bowl
It's also probably because the Hornets have managed to capture a rare dynamic. They are a team that's professional and dedicated to its goals, but is also fully in sync and actually enjoys playing and being together. I try and imagine what it must have been like for a rookie to come into that situation, with Byron Scott at the helm and Chris Paul directing traffic. And I realize that Julian Wright, the lightning bug sophomore for the Hornets headed into his second season with a championship contender, may be in the best spot of all.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Julian a few days ago and we talked about his defensive energy, his relationship with Scott and whether he and Chris Paul have bowled to the death yet.
MM: What was the biggest thing you learned last year?
JW: I would say just getting extra work in when you need it. Sometimes when things aren't working right and your shot's not falling, you have to just get work in and be professional about it. You also need to remember it's a long season and you have to take care of your body. Those are the main things.
MM: Was the intensity of the playoffs last year something that surprised you?
JW: I wouldn't say it surprised me because I grew up watching how hard the guys are showing out there on the court on the tube, you know? I just try and play hard regardless. I think it makes it so much more intense, because every mistake is something you can capitalize on and it's something that's magnified. There's so much less room for error. I think that guys still play hard all the time.
MM: What were the biggest things you worked on over the summer?
JW: I'd say ball-handling and perimeter shooting. Just trying to get more consistent. That's what I'm trying to do now. I'm looking for my shot. A lot of the guys in practice are telling me to look for my shot, and to stop being as passive. IF there's an open shot, I need to shoot it.
MM: You brought a ton of energy to the team last year, especially on defense. What have you worked on defensively?
JW: I've tried to work on my positioning and be a help-defender a lot more. I'm trying to work on my feet and being able to keep guys in front of me, to face them down.
MM: Is there anything different with the feel of training camp this year?
JW: I think it's a lot more loose. We had a little bit tighter feel last year. We're focused, but we're more loose. A lot of the guys who were here last year are here again. We're getting a lot more basketball stuff done now with scrimmages and things like that instead of running, so we're focusing on being better as a team.
MM: If you had one word to describe your relationship with Coach Scott, what would you say it is?
JW: It's so cliche to say Father-Son, but for lack of an explanation right now, on the spot, that's the best description. That's kind of what it is. Just taking me under his wing, showing me a lot of things to focus on. A lot of the mistakes I've made have been from all the energy I have, and he's trying to slow me down. I'm starting to see the game a little more clearly now that I'm slowing down a little bit. He's not going to give it to me, I have to earn it. I have to stay focused and work hard.
MM: Are you still bowling about 190?
JW: I'm about 195-200 now. I haven't bowled as much as I'd like to, but I went to Chris Paul's event and balled out, as I expected to do. I bowled a 225 and a 191.
MM: Have you and Chris (Paul) gone head to head yet?
JW: No, not yet. We had a team bowling event last year at the end of the season, but it was a group thing. We were tied then. Next time we bowl, we'll see.
MM: Who do you think you're closest to on the team?
JW: I'm close to a lot of the guys. It's a close locker room. It's hard to gauge when you're a rookie. You never know if you're going to stick. So you have to see how it goes.
MM: Did you have any thoughts on what happened with Mario Chalmers at the rookie event?
JW: I haven't heard all the evidence or whatever that happened. But I don't focus on negative energy. They had a problem, and however they handled it, that's with them. I'll just say that I believe they're good kids. I've been around them obviously in college, and some things happened, but it's hard to comment when I don't know all the details.
MM: Last question, what are your goals for this season?
JW: I want to average 17 to 20 minutes a game. Coach already told me I will gain or lose minutes based on defense, so I want to keep that up. I also want to make the Rookie-Sophomore game (at All-Star Weekend).