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The Wright Stuff Week 21: There’s no real mystery to what Delon does for the Raptors

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Delon Wright was injured for a bit, and the Raptors kept winning. Now he’s back, and they’re still winning. It’s been a time.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at New York Knicks Adam Hunger-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

Even if it had actually been more serious, Delon Wright’s big toe sprain never really felt that serious. Like, we knew he’d come back soon, and be his old self, and we’d probably just move on and forget about it. Maybe at the end of the season there’d be some mention of it — oh hey, remember when Delon had to leave a game, then tried to play in the next one but couldn’t, then missed a huge game, and then fully returned and was good again? — and that’d be it.

The Raptors are on a nine game winning streak right now, so we’re hard-pressed to do too much hand-wringing about the whole thing. No mystery there.

But it is funny to take a step back and try to consider what it is Delon is bringing to the whole. He’s of a piece with the team’s insane bench unit, which is crushing teams all over the place despite featuring a gaggle of underdogs. But his absence against the Houston Rockets last Friday wasn’t really felt. I mean, Toronto wants him, we want him, but there was never quite a moment in that game where we thought: damn, we need Delon here right now. James Harden had 40 points, and that felt inevitable. No mystery there either.

ACT 2

The legacy of Mystery Men is, all things considered, pretty fair. It’s silly, doesn’t date particularly well, and many of its cast went on to do much better — or at least, more noteworthy — things. (Somehow, it’s director never made another feature film, but that’s a story for another day.) Like many cultural products of the 90s, we should probably just leave it to the decade from whence it came. There’s no real need to rehash it in a misbegotten attempt to figure out what we missed.

Ah but that also, in a weird way, kind of misses the point. For as goofy and inessential as Mystery Men is, it’s also kind of... perfect? Allow me to explain.

Mystery Men is about a team of self-made superheroes, who also happen to be losers uniquely unsuited to actually being superheroes. Imagine that. The titular gang starts as a trio (Mr. Furious, the Shoveller, and the Blue Raja), and eventually becomes more of a team (to include, naturally, the Bowler, the Spleen, Invisible Boy, and the Sphinx). None of them really has any actual super powers — though the Bowler’s bowling ball is definitely supernatural — and so, of course, no one really respects them at all.

That is until Captain Amazing dies — we won’t speak on the role the Mystery Men have to play in said death — and suddenly this unruly gang of misfits are all that’s standing in the way of villain Casanova Frankenstein and his plans for taking over and ruling Champion City. Yes, it is silly when you describe it like that. But then, that’s also part of the fun.

For a superhero comic book film from the late 90s, even one saddled with its share of Batman and Robin-type visuals, Mystery Men was way ahead of its time and, to my mind, still holds up. There are too many wacky jokes, too many bizarre and/or memorable performances (including everyone from Eddie Izzard to Tom Waits to a cameo from Michael Bay to 90s It Girl Claire Forlani), and just all together too many things, for the film to not be enjoyable.

ACT 3

Would Delon Wright fit in on the Mystery Men? Or, perhaps a better question: is the Raptors bench unit akin to the whole Mystery Men squad? Think on it. A team of lightly regarded players, bundled together, playing well above their heads and then, a-ha!, somehow saving the day? That sounds like the Mystery Men to me.

Now we just need to figure out who Delon is most like. He’s not the team’s father figure, like the Shoveller/C.J. Miles, or the angry wanderer (Mr. Furious/Norm), or the surprisingly competent and steady Bowler (a.k.a. Fred VanVleet). No, he’s more like Kel Mitchell’s Mystery Boy — he’s the guy on the squad who does have an ability, but you almost have to not see him to remember it’s there. Then Delon pops out of nowhere with a steal, or a crazy scooping lay-up, or a block from behind, or a huge offensive rebound, and you remember: this guy is special.

(And just to fill out the squad: the Blue Raja is Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam is the Spleen, and Lucas Nogueira is the Sphinx. I also like to imagine Dwane Casey as Dr. Heller, but I may have to workshop the comparison a bit.)

Anyway, we know where Mystery Men, the film, is going throughout, and yes, we’re all mostly tired of super hero and comic book movies now — if not exhausted of the Raptors (or at least the regular season). But there was a time when all you needed was Academy Award nominee William H. Macy making an inspiring speech while also making an egg salad sandwich, and you had, well, not a hit.

But you definitely had something.