Christian Wood doesn’t hide his resentment.
He embraces it.
The New Orleans Pelicans’ most recent addition to their roster has played on four teams in four years, knocking around the end of NBA benches and dazzling on G League courts. He’s one of those guys who has been stuck in the middle.
“My perspective is I play with a chip on my shoulder,” Wood said. “I’m mad that I didn’t get drafted. I’m mad teams passed up on me and didn’t give me a chance. So, I go every game and play my (butt) off and show what I can do.”
The sneer certainly worked for him Tuesday night.
The 6-foot-10 Wood erupted for 23 points, nine rebounds, six blocks and three steals during a loss to the Atlanta Hawks, and didn’t feign surprise at his performance. Instead, he used it to demonstrate what the rest of the league has been missing.
“All I needed is a chance,” Wood said after logging 32 minutes. “I know I can show what I can do and I think I did that.”
In his 13 of his 15 previous NBA games this season, Wood played less than 10 minutes. In eight of those, he played less than five.
It’s why he was assigned from the Milwaukee Bucks to the G-League 14 different times this season. But when the Bucks suffered an injury in their backcourt and needed to add a body, they cut Wood loose.
The Pelicans then claimed him off waivers for the final weeks of the season.
It’s nothing new for Wood, who has spent time with the Bucks, 76ers and Rockets since going undrafted out of UNLV in 2015. In between those stops he logged 123 games for the G-League’s Greensboro Swarm, Delaware 87ers and Wisconsin Herd, averaging 22.3 points per game.
It all led him to New Orleans, a remote NBA outpost at the moment, considering not only have they lost nine of 10 games, but star Anthony Davis already demanded a trade and Jrue Holiday is shut down because of a season ending injury.
But, for Wood, it’s the right place at the right time.
“I’ve been to four teams in four years and I haven’t gotten a chance like this,” Wood said. “I played behind guys like Joel Embiid and Giannis (Antetokuonmpo) and I was kind of in the back of all of them. But, I’m here now. I’m getting an opportunity to play. I want guys to see what I can do. And I’m going to give them 100 percent.”
The production is impressive considering coach Alvin Gentry said Wood “doesn’t know what he’s doing out there” having spent less than a week in the Pelicans’ system. And even Wood admitted he was lost at times on Tuesday, despite the statistical outburst.
It’s why this situation is perfect for Wood.
With the playoffs out of reach, there’s no pressure by the team to make every defensive assignment and follow every principle. With the Pelicans’ roster decimated by injuries and Davis’ impending departure, there are more than enough minutes available for evaluation purposes.
“I think it happens all of the time because sometimes it takes guys a few years to find themselves,” Gentry said. “I always use Avery Johnson as an example. He’s a guy who was cut five or six times because he had a championship career. Some guys float around and do it, but you can see he has a talent level and a game for the league.
“He’s a good shot blocker and has the ability to shoot it and gets to the line. It’s just a matter of establishing consistency. And we are going to try to get him consistent minutes.”
And if Wood continues to play like he did on Tuesday, he’ll likely have his 2019-20 non-guaranteed contract picked up by the Pelicans sometime this summer.
But, even then, he’s going to keep playing with resentment.
It was a fairly innocuous play, one that didn’t play have much bearing in the Pelicans’ 130-120 home loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday nigh…
“I think that grit that I bring with that effort and energy, I think it shows out there,” Wood said. “I think the coaches and everybody loves it.”