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.
Not for nothing, but Delon Wright is shooting almost 38 percent from three-point range this season. He’s put down 51-of-135 attempts on the year, which means, yes, he won’t get to his one made three per game goal (he’d need to put in another 31 threes in the next seven games). But it also means he can be counted on to hoist one up from deep. I wrote about this way back at the beginning of the season, when we didn’t quite know how Wright would shoot, and now we can say: hey, pretty damn well!
That’s one of the cool things about the NBA season when taken as a whole, and in particular when looking at this Raptors squad and Wright. At the beginning of the year we didn’t quite know what to make of the back half of the squad. The starting lineup felt set (with Norman Powell at the three) and we were ready for C.J. Miles’ shooting, but after that: question marks.
Now almost 82 games later, we’ve seen what happens with a team that puts obvious sweat and care into developing (apart and together). A guy like Pascal Siakam can become a key piece of the team, and a player like Wright can emerge as a new kind of glue guy — and a three-point shooter of some note. If nothing else, the dedication to craft is admirable. And of course, it’s also fun to watch the hard work pay off.
It actually begins in a movie theatre; I had forgotten that part. Tampopo, the comedy from writer-director Juzo Itami, has lots of bits and pieces like that. It opens on a white-suited man and his dame as they sit to watch a movie (the man notes that we must be doing the same since, ah, we’re looking at him). That this man threatens a fellow audience member for making too much noise while eating theatre snacks is just another spicy twist since, well, the film is about food. Or, more specifically, about making the perfect bowl of ramen.
Where does Tampopo go from there? Hoo boy, a lot of places. The main story revolves around Goro (Tsutomu Tamazaki), a rakish truck driver who rumbles into town one rainy night looking for something to eat. He gets served — first food, and then a fist as he’s drawn into a feud between a local strong man and the ramen shop’s owner, the dowdy (but secretly beautiful) Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto). For various reasons (love? violence? hunger?), Goro decides to stick around to help train this woman to cook the aforementioned perfect bowl of ramen, while running the best ramen shop in the city. It’s a noble goal.
But where does Tampopo go from there? OK, uh, even more places. As directed by Itami, the film operates on two levels — a straight ahead (relatively speaking) story of mentor-protege, a narrative that feels in this instance like Rocky crossed with a John Ford western. And then, it’s filled with vignettes, various side journeys through Japanese food culture. We watch an old sensei teach a young apprentice the proper way to eat a bowl of ramen, take part in the young-old dynamic of a typical business lunch, and stifle a chuckle as a bunch of women learn the proper “western” way to eat noodles (silently!). Meanwhile, the white-suited man glimpsed earlier comes and goes, his presence adding a layer of eroticism to the proceedings. (You may never look at a raw egg yolk the same way again.)
Yes, there is a lot of spice and seasoning that goes into the mixture of Tampopo. It’s main story has the beats of a quest, but there’s a muted romance within as well; it at times feels like a western, with various gangs (headed by rival ramen shop owners) jumping into the fray; and then there are all those skits, some of which are quite silly, others quite saucy. Somehow all of this (the fighting, the comedy, the sex), works together to create the perfect bowl of ramen on-screen, and — look at that — something akin to the perfect movie.
There are a lot of different weird elements to Delon’s game. He’s got the handle, but uses an off-kilter stop and start dribble to get where he wants to go. In last Tuesday’s game against the Nuggets he spun so fast he tripped himself up, and yet usually we can count on him to do something slippery like that on his way to the basket. Meanwhile, Wright can be counted on to get an arm into passing lanes, his rebounds often come out of nowhere, and his blocks are as exciting as they are shocking. As I said off the top, his range is obviously expanding too. He’s dangerous at almost all times, but he doesn’t look it.
The best qualities of Tampopo embody these similar concepts — surprise and craft, attention to detail, but also a disregard for the norms. The film’s story feels extremely familiar, but it has such fun with the details, filling them with local colour and random flights of fancy — but always with an eye towards the final product. The throughline of the film ultimately lands here, on the desire to hone one’s ability towards the ideal. If you’re going to be good at something, train, work hard, strive for the goal. When it pays off, as it does in the film, things come to a satisfying end.
Wright’s got that same wild mix, all the parts coming together to create the whole. He’s a point guard, in one sense a player we’ve seen thousands of times before. Yet, he feels different. And most importantly: we don’t quite know where Delon will go next. What we do know is that he’ll keep working towards that next achievement, that next goal.
And who knows, maybe the results will just keep on surprising us too.
Casual 50-foot buzzer beater. pic.twitter.com/JXxbqnDVU3— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 28, 2018