SALT LAKE CITY — Once his rookie season with the Sixers ended, Christian Wood never strayed far from the gym if he could help it.
Wood spent considerable time hitting the weight room, adding muscle to his frame and boosting his overall strength. He added 15 pounds, getting his weight up to 235 pounds ahead of summer league play. He also worked on his shooting, driving and all the other things that could factor into his chances to return to the NBA.
"I got to approach the offseason with a sense of urgency,” Wood said. “Just working. Just doing the best I can and doing the most I can on the floor to help the team and the young guys.”
It has paid off for him so far at the Utah Jazz Summer League. The second-year forward from UNLV has generated offense for the Sixers in critical stretches in games against the Celtics and the Spurs. Wood totaled 19 points and seven rebounds in a 95-91 loss to San Antonio on Tuesday (see Instant Replay). This followed on the heels of a 20-point, five-rebound effort against Boston a night earlier.
In two games, Wood is averaging a team-best 19.5 points on 70.6 percent shooting and 6.0 rebounds in just 17.5 minutes per contest. He is doing the things a player needs to do to earn himself another shot – either with the Sixers or another team.
“Christian is playing great,” Sixers summer league coach Billy Lange said. “He's confident right now and he feels like he belongs out at a different place than maybe he would have a year ago. You see confidence in his offensive game with driving, catching and shooting, making some quicker decisions, going after rebounds.”
Playing with confidence could be the difference maker in Wood's quest to stick in the NBA. He went through frustrating ups and downs as a rookie, after going undrafted out of college.
The Sixers signed Wood before the start of the 2015-16 season. His role ended up being minimal and his minutes were sporadic at best. In 17 games with the Sixers, Wood averaged just 3.6 points and 2.2 rebounds. A stint with the Delaware 87ers showed what Wood could potentially do in a larger role. He averaged 17.3 points and 9.4 rebounds in 32 NBA D-League games.
Wood eventually was waived by the Sixers in January, but returned on multiple 10-day contracts following Jahlil Okafor's injury that cut short his rookie season. All of that experience has been a difference maker in how he has prepared for the summer league this time around.
“It goes a long way,” Wood said. “It definitely helps a lot. You see a lot that goes on [out] on the floor, with the experience of having played for the Sixers for a year.”
One of the things that has changed most about Wood since the end of his rookie season is his strength. Putting time in the weight room has made it easier for him to finish around the rim and clean up the glass. He is also using his length to his advantage on both ends of the court.
Wood knows what to expect and has done his best to prepare for it. That experience could translate into bigger things for him by the fall.
“Experience gives you confidence and the game is still a game of confidence,” Lange said. “Because Christian just has a little bit of practices and shootarounds and some game minutes, he just feels really good about himself when he's out there.”
It offers just the sort of winning formula that an undrafted player like Wood needs to beat the odds.