An Interview With Hornets Forward Julian Wright

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with New Orleans Hornets forward Julian Wright at a “Subway Junior Hornets Basketball Event”. He was there to meet the young fans and give them a few tips on the game of basketball and life.

For those that don’t know about the Junior Hornets, it’s a group of around 700 5-12 year old fans who receive a bunch of cool Hornets stuff like a watch, water bottle, shirt, the basketball camp and a free 6″ sub (mmm… Subway), as well as the opportunity to see and speak with Julian.

As for Wright, you know him best as our athletic small forward who has shown tons of potential ever since he was drafted with the 13th pick in 2007. It was that same year, at the age of 20, that he boasted a 15.48 PER, good for 24th among all small forwards.

In the summer that followed the team’s best season in history, he found himself playing point guard in summer league. The position of backup point guard was at the time a huge concern, and Byron Scott attempted to solve the problem internally in what can only be reflected upon as a poor decision.

The development of Julian Wright as a forward took a step back that summer. It was clear that he was unsure about what his identity as a player, and it showed on the court. A year of Jeff Bower, someone who is a GM by trade and a coach out of necessity, seemed to provide little in the way of guidance for Julian

Let’s start our interiew with that-


Joe: You’ve expressed frustration through Twitter that you still need to find out what kind of NBA player you are. What kind of player are you trying to become? And what workouts are you doing this off season to get there?

Julian: One thing is that I just want to be in better shape, to be able to sustain injuries. I mean I’ve done that so far, but there’s more. Conditioning is going to be a huge factor, but also my jump shot. I’ve been working on that for a while, but I need to get consistent. I’m getting back to the basics this summer. I can take a thousand jump shots, but it’s about taking a thousand of the same shots with good fundamentals. That way you know you can make adjustments so you can make it running and when you spot up.

Joe: Is there anything on the defensive end?

Julian: Conditioning. I’ve done some stuff to work on slides, but mainly conditioning. Just being in better shape in terms of my core. I think can really help me. In terms of the actual games I really use training camp, but you know, you really gotta have those initial god-given skills to play defense.

Joe: You’ve widely been considered someone who can become a lock down defender.  Do you think that maybe in the past you haven’t had the right direction as far as head coaching goes?

Julian: I think you could say that. I’ve given my all, but maybe I haven’t had the right focus. As a young player you really look to your coach a lot and I think I need someone to give me direction and be really great with communication, to let me know what he’s thinking because I think I’m very open minded and eager to improve.  When you don’t know what to improve it’s hard.

Joe: Well Monty Williams sounds excited to work with you. Can I assume the feeling is mutual.

Julian: Definitely. I actually met Monty Williams at a press conference and you know- He was a wing player in his career and a respected player. You don’t get an assistant job as well as a head coaching job at the rate he’s had unless you’re respected. I’ve seen the great work he’s done with Martell Webster, Nicolas Batum and Travis Outlaw, and it’s fun to see how they groove. So hopefully he can do that with me.

Joe: Monty is the youngest coach in the league, are you excited to work with someone as obviously motivated as he is to make a name for himself.

Julian: Well you know I’m one of the youngest guys on the team, so I mean I guess there is king of something in common. We obviously have a lot of room to grow for him and me as well so I imgine that he’s going to be on fire trying to turn things around.

Joe: I noticed that you worked well with Collison and Thornton as sort of a high tempo transition unit. Do you work with them in the offseason at all or do you practice with them more because they are also on on the younger side?

Julian: Well during the season we work out a little bit, but during the offseason it’s tough. During the season you can really talk to other guys about what they’re doing, but this time of year pretty much everyone is doing their own thing and it’s ahrd to find time to really catch up with them.  If you didn’t talk in May it’s hard to catch up in June or July, you know. The younger guys though tend to come back a little early for training camp and it would be best I think for everyone to come back since we have a new coach. Usually though the younger guys do though.

Joe: Do you see yourself as a small forward or a power forward at this point.

Julian: I see myself as a small forward, but you know now it’s sort of a trend to be able to play a little power forward. It’s a good thing to be able to do now since teams are running small sometimes.

Joe: A few years ago you had some of your best performances filling in for David West when he was injured. I feel like that was primarily at the PF position.

Julian: Yeah, well I look at it like that as well. You have guys like Antawn Jamison who can stretch the floor and that’s why I’m working so hard on my jump shot, so I can be a guy who can fill in at both positions. I think that will be able to help me to play both positions and it won’t matter who is guarding me. That way coach can use me however he wants. It will make it much easier for me to take shots and attack from the wing. So far I just feel like I’ve been limited through not being able to knock down consistent jump shot

Joe: Are you working with the same people you were working with in Chicago last summer?

Julian: Currently I’m not. Tim Grover and all them did an extremely incredible job with me, but it’s just more a preference for me. I’m still open to working with them in the future.

Joe: Are there any other NBA players you are working with this summer?

Julian: Right now it’s just me. I think it’s just good to get back to basics. I’m trying to have the least amount of distractions this summer. It’s the last year of my rookie deal and I really want to work hard this summer to get back to the playoffs. Missing out really left a bad taste in my mouth.

Joe: Have you talked to anyone on the team about this offseason regarding the excitement surrounding the team.

Julian: I catch up with Chris just whenever I see him but ya know, everyone’s doing their own thing. It’s kind of tough.

Joe: Are there any Jayhawks in the draft that you think are going to make a big splash in the draft?

Julian: Well we have three right now. Sharron Collins. Xavier Henry a highly skilled two guard and Cole Aldrich who is a Junior. I’m excited to see the tradition of guys coming from college and making an impact on a team

Joe: Do you know any of them on a personal level?

Julian: Well Sharon I played with because we were both from the Chicago area, and Cole as well, he comitted with I was there. And Xavier as well I know because his brother played…with the Jayhawks.

Joe: Have you played against any of them before?

Julian: Not really, well I played with Sharron is high school a little bit, but I’m going into my fourth year and they are rookies.

Joe: Is it safe to say you would prefer the Hornets draft a Jayhawk?

Julian: Ehhh- I want them to draft the person who will best help our team. If that happens to be a Jayhawk then great and I’ll take him out to eat, and you take him under my wing. Then the next day well tell him what we’re going to do to him

Joe: I know that in the past the rookies have been, well I don’t want to say hazed, but have been required to carry bags and such. Is there anything you can tell me about how that experience helps guys to transition to the NBA?

Julian: Well it starts in summer league. Sort of right after the draft. Three weeks after you’re drafted you have to be in vegas and you have to carry the bags in the heat and sun of Las Vegas. You know it’s just getting started. I had to carry a pink little miss princess bag, but you know. Those little things, they stick with you for a long time because it’s a transition to a new life and you have to earn your stripes.

Joe: Is there like a final ceremony that ends your time as a rookie?

Julian: No, if they see you’re being professional sometimes they will end it early, but you’re technically a rookie until you start your second year. Until you suit up and you are out there. I think for me when we made the playoffs they wanted me to stop thinking of myself as a rookie. They told me this is the playoffs, you need to step up. So I stopped all the carrying bags and stuff. So sometimes it just goes along with you and how you respond to what your teammates.

Joe: Well thanks a lot Julian. I appreciate it. Good luck next season.

Julian: No problem. Best of luck to you too.

Am I the only one who feels as though Julian Wright is probably the player who will benefit most from Monty Williams coming on board? He still has a ways to go offensively, but with some real guidance it’s a distinct possibility that he will still realize his potential. The team needs to improve it’s perimeter defense and Julian Wright just might be the man for the job.

If I had to pick a Hornet right now as the favorite for Most Improved Player, it would undoubtedly be Ju-Ju. Note that.

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