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The Wright Stuff Week 11: Building a better Delon, piece by piece

If there’s one thing this week has made clear it’s this: Delon Wright on the Raptors is something special.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to The Wright Stuff, our weekly column following the career of Raptors point guard Delon Wright. Since we can’t influence his training or anything on the court, we’ll recommend films that reflect his past week and hopefully inspire a leap forward. It’ll be part film breakdown, part essay, and part whatever loose piece of wisdom we can shake from the experience.

ACT 1

If it wasn’t clear already, last week confirmed it: Delon Wright has a special combination of skills, and his role on the Raptors is, all things considered, well-built and considered. In three games this week, all wins, Wright’s stat line varied, but his presence — in the open floor, in the passing lanes, on the boards, everywhere — did not. It’s getting harder for the Raptors to keep Delon-mania under wraps.

We talk a lot about a player’s development curve, and where and how they’ll reach their true potential. Each discrete minute they play, every season they endure, is another piece to be added in the construction of their overall career. Will all of these disparate elements and forces coalesce into something wonderful? In most (if not all) cases, there’s no way to know for sure at the start.

Just this morning, Sun reporter Ryan “Woz” Wolstat mused that if the 2015 NBA Draft was done again today, Wright would be a top 10 pick. Looking at the other players in the mix, and Delon’s recent play, it’s hard to disagree. How in the world did we end up here?

ACT 2

It’s been lost in the shuffle by now — due to changes in technology and/or just plain bad timing — but for my money The Iron Giant is the best animated film of the 90s. Yes, Toy Story is more momentous as the first all-CGI feature length film; and sure, all that singing and dancing in Beauty and the Beast sure does hold up (if you’re into that sort of thing). But for me, I’ll always return to the pleasure and power found in Brad Bird’s forgotten classic. It remains the most special.

Based on a Ted Hughes novel, The Iron Giant tells the tale of a young boy named Hogarth who happens upon, you guessed it, a giant-ass robot in the woods near his house. As you’d expect, this causes something of a stir, though Hogarth, his mom Annie, and a buddy hippie artist Dean, do their best to keep a lid on it. Since the film is set in the late 1950s, right after the launch of the USSR’s Sputnik, agents of Cold War intrigue find out about the Iron Giant anyway, and shortly thereafter the U.S. government’s Kent Mansley comes sniffing around. He’s convinced the Giant is a weapon, but up until that point in the film, the big iron lug has acted more like a playful dog — jumping around, playing with Hogarth, eating anything (metal) he can get his hands on. That doesn’t stop Mansley’s train of thought, and eventually an attack on the Giant begins in earnest.

This would be grim or distancing stuff, if not for the artistry on display. Far be it for me to toss aside two plus decades of computer-generated work, but The Iron Giant’s hand-drawn animation is still hard to top. There’s a warmth here, a richness in texture and detail, that draws us into this small town, and the tiny lives it contains. On top of that, the voice casting eschews big name celebrities to instead find the most fitting voice. (If they happen to be celebrities too, so be it.) So The Iron Giant gets Jennifer Aniston, Christopher McDonald (a.k.a Shooter McGavin), and Vin Diesel (in a proto-Groot performance) in key roles, but none of them overplay their parts. The pieces instead weave together to create something far greater.

I’m rolling through summary and background here to avoid discussing the central power of The Iron Giant. It’s in the third act, as the danger increases and both Hogarth and the Giant discover just who they are and what they’re truly made of. It’s a climax and conclusion that never fails to draw a tear from my eye, invoking as it does the clear-eyed heroism of Golden Age comics, Superman specifically. The themes here may be simple, but rewards are plenty.

ACT 3

Oh to be filled with that kind of potential, to wonder how it would feel to take to the sky and soar. As over-the-top as it sounds, Delon’s recent play has us dreaming (like Hogarth) about such things. We’re already wondering how he’ll play in the post-season, and how next season will go. And how about in three years, when Kyle Lowry is near the end of his run — what then?

Similarly, I have a hard time rationally discussing The Iron Giant, it really is that special. It’s rare for a film to exert its kind of power, to draw from history, both real and imagined, and build something new and unique. There are precedents here, of course, but it still feels like a one-of-a-kind production. (On that Bird has only sort of been able to top.)

And now, like the fears of that time period, and much of the craftsmanship, it’s largely been forgotten. The Iron Giant lives on of course, and for those who love it (like me), it’ll never truly be lost. That’s something to keep in mind: no matter what happens in the future, it’s been a treat watching Wright construct himself into something unique right now. Piece by piece, day by day, it’s seeming likely we’ll remember him for a long time.