How a Wright brother has taken playoff flight with the Heat when needed most

BOSTON — He is not the first Wright brother to take flight with the Miami Heat in the playoffs in an attempt to reach previous NBA heights. But Delon Wright already has soared past his brother in one regard.

As his brother Dorell Wright did in 2016, Delon Wright joined the Heat late in a season in the hope that playoff exposure could lead to a secure landing spot in the league going forward.

The difference for Dorell was that his Heat playoff comeback in 2016 wound up including just 19 minutes of playing time.

Already in this Eastern Conference best-of-seven opening round series against the Boston Celtics, Delon Wright played 25:38 in Game 1.

“After I left Washington, it was to try to get on a playoff team, and Miami has been working out perfect for me,” said Wright, who was waived by the Wizards on Feb. 16 and signed with the Heat two days later. “I just wanted to just get a chance to be a playoff player, and that’s what I feel like I am.”

With a 17-point Game 1 performance that included 5-of-5 3-point shooting, Wright, 31, certainly received his desired showcase.

“Coming to Miami,” he said ahead of Wednesday night’s Game 2 against the Celtics at TD Garden, “was one of those things where I knew that it would be like an audition, because I’ve been bouncing around a few teams. So, of course, I would love to stay here.

“I just wanted to get a chance to get into the system, see how I can be part of the Heat culture, the Heat organization, and just prove myself and hope for the best in free agency.”

With Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier sidelined, and with Duncan Robinson limited by an ongoing back issue, it has proven to be an ultimate proving ground.

But there was a time amid this two-month whirlwind when it did not appear to be headed in this direction.

Two weeks after signing Wright, the Heat returned to the buyout market to add Patty Mills. Suddenly there was veteran competition for the potential postseason showcase, with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra initially opting for Mills’ shooting over Wright’s defense.

In the immediate wake of the addition of Mills, Wright found himself in the midst of a seven-game run without seeing action. There later would be a stretch of inactivity in five games over a six-game span.

Related Articles

“It was like, ‘It’s not working out like I thought it would be,’ ” Wright said. “But I knew why, though. I knew I just had to stay ready. He was rotating other guys in, trying different lineups. I just had to not let that mental side of it take over, and just continue to work.”

Eventually, Spoelstra found desired chemistry with Wright at the top of the Heat’s zone defense alongside Haywood Highsmith.

Then came Rozier’s neck injury. Then came Butler’s knee ailment. And, all the while, Robinson continued to deal with the back issue listed as left facet syndrome.

Suddenly Wright was playing catch-up, not as much with the Heat system as with his conditioning.

The minutes toward the end of his run with the Wizards had been nominal, as Washington turned toward youth and the future. Now here he was, being asked to apply full-court pressure alongside Highsmith.

“Yeah, so I wasn’t playing as much in Washington, just doing the bike and stuff,” Wright said, “So once I got here, I jumped right into full-court pressure. It took me a while to get my legs back under me. I think I did good on defense. But on offense, I had to get a little bit more acclimated and more conditioning under my belt.”

Then, once his 3-pointers began to fall, it made the decisions that much easier for Spoelstra.

“Being here,” Wright said, “my role is to be a spot-up shooter, which is fine with me. It’s just an adjustment to make. So I’ve been adjusting well to that now.”

For Dorell Wright, that 2016 late-season stint with the Heat proved to be the end of his NBA career, at 30 then moving on to conclude his playing time in Bosnia, Germany and Russia.

For Delon Wright, this Heat stint could rejuvenate an NBA career that has seen him with six teams over these past five seasons (Mavericks, Pistons, Kings, Hawks, Wizards and Heat).

“Delon has gotten a lot more comfortable in two months in our system,” Spoelstra said. “What he does fits what we do defensively.”