Smiling. Passionate. That's how I remember Lorenzen Wright.
Rather than post the sordid speculations or get into the details of what the end of life was for former Hawk and 13-year NBA vet Lorenzen Wright, I wanted to share about how I remember the guy called "Wren".
The only man who was more fired up about losing than I was.....and I am a nut-job who once removed myself the arena after slamming and breaking a Diet Coke plastic bottle, spraying many a patron, after a first quarter beating at the hands of the visiting Spurs in 2000. Yet, Wren was said to have caused more than his share of ruckus after a loss and according to Stan Kasten, put me to shame.
I initially remember Wren as not quite being the player we thought he would be after Pete Babcock traded (2) first round picks to the Clippers and signed him to a 7/42 deal prior to the 1999-2000 season. He was supposed to be part of the tear-down/rebuild project that featured Jason Terry and Dion Glover, but that plan for success never materialized.
But what we did get was a guy that could knock down a short base-line jumper, rebounded well on the defensive glass, and would get so intense after a loss that teammates would scatter when Wren would go knocking down chairs and other items in the lockerroom, post-game.
When we weren't losing games, and in 1999-2001, that wasn't too often, Wren was smiling, chatty, his outgoing personality obvious. At Dominique's retirement dinner, I asked Wren how it was to play against Lenny Wilkens, who had been hired by Raptors. Lenny, you see, was not anxious in the least about playing the man Babcock acquired, so when Wren was playing considerably more under new coach Lon Kruger, I knew Wren couldn't wait to play the Raptors.
Wren, who had a subpar shooting night but still turned in a double-double, said he reveled in the Hawks winning 78-72 and said he let out a big "Staaaaaaaan Albeck!" in the coach's direction. Albeck, who followed Lenny from Atlanta to Toronto, had also been less than eager to play the young forward.
I'll also always remember him leaving the Philips Arena floor after one of those many losses, face stern with anger and disappointment, removing his jersey and putting it in my stomach as if I were Jamal Anderson. That jersey hangs in my closet still, with pride, because Wren was fun and cared about winning and losing, character items that fans want in a young player. No, he was never worth the loot that Pete paid for him, but I always felt he gave everything he had and cared about the outcome.
He was soon gone to the Grizzlies for Shareef Abdur-Rahim and while I wasn't around for Wren's second tour through Atlanta, I wish I had been. I would have liked to share/laugh about a couple of those stories from his earlier years and thank him for the jersey and for caring during some pretty rotten times.
Because that's how I remember him. A Hawk. #42. Rest in peace.