So last January 9, Phoenix Super LPG top player Matthew Wright posted on Twitter this reaction to a PBA website story on the current Covid-19 surge in the country, likely because of the Omicron variant, which has again suspended play in the PBA after the league was seemingly already heading back to normalcy.
— Matthew Wright (@Mr_Wright_) January 9, 2022
To be honest, I can’t blame him.
It was probably not just about the latest Covid surge dampening the league’s momentum he was reacting to, but his own as well.
For one, Wright was coming off his best game in the 2021 Governors’ Cup eliminations to the tune of 23 points built around a 6-for-9 shooting from three-point range (8-of-18 or 44-percent from the field overall), nine rebounds, and four assists in a 102-93 victory over NLEX last Christmas Day in front of the biggest crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in nearly two years.
Those six made triples surpassed Wright’s total in their first four games in the conference — 5-of-26, to be exact (or 19-percent).
For leading the Fuel Masters in bringing down the previously unbeaten and erstwhile conference-leading Road Warriors, Wright was even named Player of the Week by the PBA Press Corps for that December 22 to 26 final week of action in the league for the calendar year, besting outstanding performances as well during that same week from Phoenix teammate Justin Chua; San Miguel Beer’s Terrence Romeo and CJ Perez; Magnolia’s Paul Lee, Jio Jalalon and Calvin Abueva; Meralco’s Chris Newsome; Alaska’s Maverick Ahanmisi, Jeron Teng and Robbie Herndon; and TNT rookie Mikey Williams.
Come to think of it, Wright was actually coming off his two best games in the conference.
Before that win against NLEX, Phoenix took on Barangay Ginebra last Dec. 19 also at the Big Dome.
Before the game against the Kings, I approached Wright, pointed to him what seemed to be his continuing shooting slump from the previous conference, and asked him his thoughts about it.
In the Fuel Masters’ first three games of the conference, Wright averaged just 11.3 points on 16-percent shooting from rainbow country (3-of-19) and 27-percent overall from the field.
In this year’s Philippine Cup, Wright’s shooting numbers in 11 games were 15.1 points (still second-best on the team behind Jason Perkins’ 16.3), 30-percent from 3-point range (21 of 71), and 33-percent overall from the field.
I felt his facial reaction show surprise and irritation with my question on his shooting slump. Not sure if he recognized me because I was wearing a face mask. I actually thought he was gonna say “Who you?” or maybe it was because I was interrupting and disturbing his pregame warm-ups and other routines.
Nonetheless, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “We’ll see after this game.”
True enough, Wright came up with his best game in the conference despite a 125-121 overtime loss to Barangay Ginebra later that evening. Even with a still so-so 2-of-7 three-point shooting, he still finished with a then conference-high 20 points on an 8-for-18 FG clip, a career-high six steals, eight assists, and four rebounds.
And which he followed up with an even bigger game in that win over NLEX six days later.
In fairness, Wright was developing the other facets of his game while in a shooting slump. He currently ranks fourth overall among locals with his 6.6 assists a game and is tied for no. 1 in steals with teammate Chris Banchero with an identical 2.4 an outing.
In this year’s Philippine Cup, Wright normed 5.3 assists and 1.4 steals, both team-best figures.
He was really turning a corner in those last two games prior to the league’s suspending hostilities because of the new Covid-19 surge.
So yeah, smh.