Big-Bucks Benchwarmer

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


Like a clown fish and a sea anemone, or an Egyptian plover and a crocodile, there is an elegant symbiosis to Clark and Wright's relationship. Clark gets to piggyback on Wright's NBA career. Wright gets the care and support he needs at home. And God knows he's needed it.

Sitting on the bench was hard enough. Going from high school hero to NBA nobody was devastating. In his rookie season, when the game NBA Live came out on Playstation II, the "Wright" player was difficult to maneuver and didn't have any skills. All of Wright's friends took notice, and some got mad.

"I wasn't going to enjoy the game knowing they have my friend not up to his potential," Green says. When he asked Wright what he thought of the game, Wright's answer was simple: "Hey, man, I don't like that game."

"I don't either," Green said, and he returned it.

Wright's mom spent hours with him on the phone and flew from California to comfort him as often as possible. Heat veteran guard Eddie Jones even told the Palm Beach Post he heard Wright say, "I should have just went to college." The bench was that tough.

When Wright would come home after having not played, Clark, the ever-attentive roommate, could recognize immediately, from a look in his eye, that he needed a boost.

"I don't let him get down," Clark says. "If I ever see him down, I try to cheer him up or I ask him if he want to go do something.... When he gets mad, I was like, 'Yo, let's get tattoos.' That always cheered him up."

The "let's" is actually another example of Clark referring to Wright in the plural. Clark never got tattoos, just Wright. Once he was at Gallery Prides Tattoo in Miami Beach for more than five hours getting just one.

"Yeah, now he's running out of space," Clark says.

Since he entered the NBA, Wright has gotten himself nearly 30 tattoos. (He's got 31 total.) If you haven't noticed that in the game, it's because his mother asked him not to tattoo his neck or his biceps, and so far he's respected her wish.

When Dorell first started getting inked, Stacy Wright was upset. But soon, he got a tattoo of her glamour-shot photo on his right forearm. She's in French braids and a fur coverup, and underneath, it says, "World's Greatest Mom." She couldn't exactly complain about that one.

Wright got his first tattoo in high school on his right arm. It says "PUSH," which stands for "Play Until Something Happens." He's got "WWJD" on a wrist. When he got drafted by the Heat, he got "BLESSED" down his leg. All are in green ink. Though Wright is not very religious, many of the others are biblical. Stacy Wright says she's thankful for that; still, it's clear she has an aversion.

"Oh my God, is it 31?" she says when I reveal the current number. "I stopped counting 'cause I don't like to look at them."

She told him that he was a professional now, and that when he got older, it wouldn't look good. But then she found out why he was getting them.

"That was keeping him strong in the beginning of his career, because he wasn't playing much," she said.

At the time Wright was getting all the tattoos, his mother was taking a college course in psychology. Somebody made a presentation about kids who deal with pain by cutting themselves and how tattoos were related to that. Stacy Wright called her son immediately and asked if he was getting the tattoos to deal with his emotional pain. He told her yes.

"That was his little outlet," she says, sounding worried.

Wright is still hanging out at the tattoo parlor about twice a week, according to someone who answered the phones at Gallery Prides.

It's not surprising, considering he has gotten few minutes in recent games. When Dwyane Wade came back for the Hornets game, Wright wound up back in a suit. Although he's played in subsequent games, it seems unlikely that Wright is part of Riley's playoff plans.

"The current situation is not the desired state," said Calvin Andrews, Wright's agent. "He [Wright] also understands that it's the situation he's in. He will work hard to improve his situation."

Then Andrews brings up the obvious point that being Dorell Wright is still pretty awesome.

"If your biggest problem is you're not playing, you don't have problems," Andrews says. "If your biggest problem in life is that you didn't play in last night's game, you have a great life. You need people to bring you back, keep things relative to the real world."

There's a brutal little piece of reality hanging above Clark's bed that Wright sees almost every day. It's a painting of a man, crouched and looking out over a long, tortuous trail. At the man's side, an arrow-shaped sign reads, "To the pros."

Asked whether playing in the NBA was one of his dreams, Clark says, "It was. My bones is crackin' now, so I sit back and watch. Now these kids twenty years old coming out of high school are ready to play in the NBA. That's what they're looking for. They looking for young talents. I can still play, but they ain't trying to take me, and not for no millions."

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