Big-Bucks Benchwarmer

A straight-from-high-school phenom stays intimate with the Heat bench

Most of the two-story condos on the block have red-tiled, Spanish-style roofs, stucco siding, metal gates out front, and wooden fences separating them from their neighbors. Wright's gate is open, and one can walk right in, past his white Range Rover with blacked-out windows, chrome rims, and "D. Wright Way" inscribed in black paint above the right taillight.

Wright's not here now. He's actually in the middle of an away game against the Indiana Pacers, which I'm hoping to watch with his roommate. But, it turns out, Clark hasn't been watching Heat games lately, and he doesn't want to watch this one.

He opens the door and extends a hand made for basketball — long dexterous fingers and wide, warm palm. Clark has close-cropped hair and a neatly trimmed mustache, with a few coiled hairs protruding from his chin. He's the picture of an athlete at rest — black Nike shorts, a black T-shirt, and white ankle-length sports socks.

The walk to the living room takes guests across the beige tiled foyer floor and through the generous and formal sitting room. Perched at the kitchen counter is Nicole Hutchinson, a willowy and stunning 23-year-old from Parkland who is taking shots of Patron Citronage, one of about five types of Patron sitting on the kitchen counter. If you're wondering whether Wright and Clark listen to Jay-Z, who boosted Patron's sales tenfold with its mention in "Show Me What You Got," the answer is yes. They're also into Lil Wayne, Nas, and T.I.

"It tastes like Kool-Aid, don't it?" Clark says. He and Hutchinson, who met after one of Wright's games, are just friends. Tonight she's got a party to hit, and as she leaves, I ask her if there's anything she'd like to mention about Wright. "He goofy," she says, flashing a knockout, mischievous smile.

I take a seat on Wright's black leather couch, which faces a 60-inch flat-screen television — smaller than what they wanted, actually. To Clark's chagrin, Georgetown is beating Vanderbilt. To the right of the television is Wright's desk, where pictures of his friends and family surround his laptop computer, lit up by its current screensaver — a picture of his reverse dunk against the Magic.

Wright changes the screensaver pretty often and takes unabashed pleasure in his own image. In fact Clark recently discovered a camera full of Wright closeups taken in his Range Rover. "I caught him taking a photo session of himself!" he says, giggling.

Like the Thanksgiving story, though, there's no spite in this disclosure. For all the good-natured ribbing, Clark seems almost protective of Wright. Asked why he isn't watching the Heat game, Clark says: "I know they're going to win, but they're not putting my boy in. D. Wade ain't playing either."

By this point, Clark says, the two know each other so well that they can practically read each other's minds. That synchronicity comes with spending nearly every second together when Wright's not at practice or a game. They eat at the Cheesecake Factory together. They drink Patron together. They go out in the Grove together. When they're both in the house, they're almost always in the same room.

Wright's room is the master bedroom — a large upstairs room adorned, predictably, with only a framed photo of Wright, along with a framed poster of a hand palming a basketball and a key to the City of Miami in the far corner. He got that when the Heat won the NBA championship last year.

Wright's bed looks way too small for his six-foot-eight frame, and Clark explains he'll be getting a giant new one soon that will allow him to "roll over four times." He's got a fenced-in balcony that faces the street. Clark's room overlooks the backyard and the pool, which is about six feet long and wide and three feet deep — measurements ample enough for Clark but not for his roomie.

"I don't know why they put this back here," Clark says. "They should have just gave us a Jacuzzi. For a guy who's six-eight, he can't do nothing in there."

Although Clark's room is considerably smaller, this is where the young men usually find themselves hanging out. Wright often sits on the far corner of the bed, watching Clark play video games, talking on the phone, and making jokes. Asked if they're best friends, Clark shakes his head in the affirmative.

"Whatever he needs, I'll do. Whatever I need, he'll do," he says. "Friends come and go, but you can always count on your brothers, so that's why I look at it more like a brothership."

Although they have an NBA-financed chef to prepare their food and a maid to clean and do the laundry, Clark seems to have taken on the role of surrogate mother. He sets Wright's alarm clock for him and makes sure he gets up around 8:45 each morning. When they had a dog (Boomer, a bulldog), it was Clark who fed and walked him. Clark even helps Wright pick his outfits.

"On game days, he calls me in here, and this is what we do. We look. We look for something to wear," Clark says as he shows me Wright's mammoth walk-around closet, with a shoe island in the center containing what looks like 100 pairs of mostly Jordans. "We try to mix and match, mix and match. We try to make sure it ain't nothing we done wore before. Well, he done wore before. I don't know why I'm saying we...."

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