This season is Julian Wright's opportunity to prove himself as an NBA starter. New Orleans coach Byron Scott writes him in the lineup each night. It's Wright's job to keep himself in that position.
"I don't take anything for granted," Wright said. "There's no contract that guarantees you 40 minutes a game."
Wright and the Hornets face NBA runner-up Orlando tonight in an exhibition game at Koch Arena. The Hornets are 1-2 in the preseason after Saturday's 88-79 win over Oklahoma City. Orlando is 4-0 with a victory over Memphis on Monday night.
Hornets coach Byron Scott handed Wright, drafted in the first round out of Kansas in 2007, the small forward position. Peja Stojakovic moved to the bench. The move is designed to get more youth and athletic ability in the game, plus add Stojakovic's instant offense to the reserves. The Hornets, with Chris Paul at point guard, want to play faster and Wright owns the required speed and skills. It's up to Wright to improve his offensive weaknesses in order to make the change work.
He spent the off-season working out with famed trainer Tim Grover, who worked with Michael Jordan, and shooting jump shots.
"I need to try to limit careless mistakes," he said during the team's media day in late September. "Play smarter and let the game come to me."
Wright's early preseason performances are similar to his two-season career — inconsistent. He made 5 of 8 shots and scored 13 points against Atlanta. In the past two games, he is 2 for 17 from the field for four points and 10 rebounds. He is 0 for 3 from three-point range in three games.
Scott told the New Orleans Times-Picayune he will give Wright time to earn the spot.
"I'm going to stick with it this whole preseason, and we'll see how it looks after that," Scott told the newspaper. "But my intentions are to stick with it when the season starts. Now if it gets to a point in the season where I think it's just not working, then I'll make the change. But right now, No. 1, I just want him to get comfortable in that role."
Wright does enjoy one big advantage as he works in his new role. Paul, one of the NBA's best playmakers, is the guy getting him the ball.
"He makes the game much easier," Wright said. "He knows I have the skills and he tells me 'We need you to play at a high level.'"