Our weekly look at the Mavericks' young players:
In his brief, injury-plagued career, Brandan Wright has never played more than 39 games in a season. When he steps on the floor Wednesday night as the Dallas Mavericks' backup center against the Los Angeles Lakers, it will already be his 31st of this season, and it just might be the biggest game of his professional basketball life.
Dallas is streaking, and Wright, just four games back from experiencing his first-ever concussion, is a big part of the four-game win streak. He's coming off a season-high 15 points at Denver and in perhaps the Mavs' two biggest wins of the season on Saturday over the Spurs and Monday at Denver, he has 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field and 5-of-7 from the free throw line. He has 15 rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots in 47 total minutes.
Only one other time this season has Wright logged more minutes in consecutive games. Against the Lakers, the Mavs are going to need a third high-minute, high-production performance.
On the eve of the All-Star break, Wright was part of a Mavs center rotation that got torched by Lakers big man Andrew Bynum to the tune of 19 points and 14 rebounds. Pau Gasol added 24 points and nine rebounds.
Wright played just 10 minutes in that game, scoring on his only two shot attempts for four points, one rebound, a blocked shot and two fouls. Both fouls were committed in the fourth quarter when he was pressed into more than five minutes of action with Brendan Haywood pushed the bench with five fouls.
With Haywood now out nursing a sprained right knee, Bynum and Gasol are the responsibility of Wright and aggressive, but foul-prone substitute starter Ian Mahinmi, who logged barely more than six minutes in that last Lakers meeting. Mavs forward Shawn Marion might return after a two-game absence with a sore left knee, but if he's out again, defending the paint will become even more difficult.
At 6-foot-10, 210 pounds, Wright can bounce through the roof and find room to operate against smaller, up-tempo teams like Denver, which didn't play a true center outside of Timofey Mozgov. All that changes against the 7-foot, 285-pound and highly skilled Bynum, who has averaged 18.0 points and 14.5 rebounds in two games this season against Dallas.
Without Haywood's brawn to lean on Bynum, the Mavs must get some prime muscle of out of the 230-pound Mahnmi and the ever-improving Wright, a natural power forward transformed to center to fit Dallas' needs.
If not, it could be a long, long night.