Backup Big Dog

A few weeks ago, did a story on certain players and their dogs. There was LeBron and his cane corso – King – there was Daniel Gibson’s duo of German shepherds; Z’s Newfoundland named “Beckham” and Mo Williams’ myriad of pit bulls. But the show-stealer was Lorenzen Wright and his prolific Rottweiler, “Karl Von Haus Neubrend.”

Karl is one of several Rottweilers that Wright owns, but he’s definitely the big dog of the house. The others might be younger or even bigger, but Karl is the old pro.

In a way, Wright’s canine companion might be symbolic of his master’s role with the Cavaliers. Wright – the former No. 7 overall pick in the 1996 Draft – isn’t at the front end of the frontline, but he’s a strong, solid veteran presence whose contributions to the club can’t always be measured by the box score.

When the Cavaliers lost veteran big man – Joe Smith – in the Mo Williams deal, they acquired the 12-year veteran from Memphis. Although he only appeared in 18 games last season, he played in no less than 65 games in each of the previous five. He started 77 games for his hometown Grizzlies in 2005-06.

Wright won’t draw too many double-teams in the low post these days, but his veteran poise, leadership and toughness are things that any Championship-contending team needs. Lorenzen talked with after a recent practice …

How did your first action with the Cavaliers feel in the season opener against Boston?
Lorenzen Wright: It felt great, man. I think this team’s got a chance to be part of something special and I’m just happy to have the opportunity to be a part of it. I always tell coach, whatever you need me to do, I’m gonna do. I’m going to give 110 percent whether it’s for one minute or a hundred minutes. I’m going to come out and do my best when I’m on the floor.

Is this the best team you’ve ever played on?
Wright: Most definitely. I’ve never been on a team with a player of LeBron’s caliber. Joe Johnson was a great player in Atlanta, and so was Pau Gasol. But they’re nothing like LeBron James.

It’s fun to watch the game and be a part of this – it’s like a “rebirth.” It’s exciting to have that opportunity that you know in the back of your mind that you could be playing for a Championship.

What does Mike Brown expect from you on the floor?
Wright: He expects me just to go out there and be a veteran on the floor – make as few mistakes as possible, rebound, play great defense and everything else will come. So, I just go out there and try to fit in.

We have so many great players that it depends who I’m on the floor with. If I’m out there with LeBron, I set picks and grab rebounds. If I’m out there with a younger group, I have to make sure they’re poised and get into plays and do everything right. So, there are different jobs with different lineups, and I just go out there and try to be versatile.

During Training Camp, you took the rookies – Darnell Jackson and J.J. Hickson – under your wing. What’s been your involvement with them since?
Wright: I still do the same thing. They’ve got me and J.J. on the list so that (on the road) his and my rooms are right beside each other, so we can communicate and make sure we’re on time for everything. I’ll go over and knock on his door to make sure we’re on time for all of our events.

I try to teach him how to be a pro and act professionally. It comes so fast – and that’s what I try to tell the young guys: this game comes fast and it goes fast. It’s been 13 years, but it seems like just yesterday that I was a rookie, myself. And I tell them: enjoy it, but also be smart about it. Go out there and work and learn.

Be a professional – learn the game, don’t just play the game.

Darnell, who’s a few years older, seems like he’s a little more ahead of the curve.
Wright: Darnell is a little more advanced. It’s funny – he likes to learn the tricks. He likes to find out what the referees don’t see. He’s like: ‘OK, OK. I’m watching it, I’m watching it. I got that one. How do you do that? What’d you do?’ He’s excited about playing the game.

He’s a hard worker and he’s going to be a good professional. He’s got a lot of talent, he works hard, he’s out here running around with his cast on every day. He plays hard and he’s tough. He and J.J. both are going to be good pros.

It’s kind of an eclectic mix among everyone on the frontcourt – from seasoned vets like you and Z and Big Ben to Anderson to the young guys. What’s it like being part of that group?
Wright: Well, when you have something in common – which is playing the game that we all love – you can’t really tell if a guy’s ten years younger than you or the same age as you. You’re all playing the same game and it’s all about winning games and having fun and kidding around. It’s fun just to be a part of this.

On this team, I have some little brothers and some brothers around the same age. It’s like a big family.