Police: Wright's death considered homicide; Hawks mourn one of their own

Memphis police are now considering former NBA player Lorenzen Wright's death as a homicide, the Associated Press said.

The Shelby County medical examiner's office reported that Wright died of a gunshot wound, the Associated Press said.

Lorenzen Wright was remembered Thursday as a fun-loving personality who helped mentor the young Atlanta Hawks during his most recent stint with the team, 2006-08.

Wright's body was found Wednesday in a wooded area of southeast Memphis. He had been missing for about 10 days.

Hawks spokesman Arthur Triche said Wright's personality "livened the mood of many teammates and those around him. He was a friend, teammate and mentor to many of the young Hawks during his second stint with the team, and his contributions will never be forgotten."

Lenny Wilkens coached the power forward during his first stint with the Hawks, 1999-2001.  "Lorenzen was a real congenial young man who played with a lot of enthusiasm," Wilkens said. "He was a real delight to be around."

Wright's family issued a statement through a cousin of Lorenzen Wright, Camella Logan: "Lorenzen's family has come together to mourn his loss and honor his legacy. We appreciate your thoughts, prayers and condolences as they are comforting at this very difficult time. Additionally, we ask that you please respect our privacy as we try to cope with his sudden loss."

Wright's mother, Deborah Marion, arrived at the scene Wednesday night with a handful of family members. She crossed the crime scene tape and tried to talk to police when she was told to move back. She sat in a TV van before returning to the tape. Two officers then let her through.

The distraught Marion then started running down the road toward the crime scene before being stopped by an officer. She spoke with officers, then walked back past reporters without speaking straight to a van.

The 34-year-old Wright was last seen in the early morning of July 19, right before he was to head back to his Atlanta townhouse with a friend and his six children. His family filed a missing person report July 22.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that a 911 call made on July 19 from Wright's cellphone recorded loud gunshot blasts from what appeared to be several weapons before the call ended.

Wright recently flew from Atlanta to Memphis to visit friends and his children, friends said.

He was last seen at about 2 a.m. July 19, leaving his ex-wife’s Whisperwood Drive home, the newspaper said.

His former wife told police she doesn’t know who he left with or what type of car they were in, according to the missing person’s report. A friend estimated Wright was carrying $2,000 to $3,000 in big bills, the Commercial Appeal reported.

Wright played 13 years in the NBA for the Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings and most recently the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2008-09 season. Wright left the University of Memphis early for the NBA, and the Clippers made the 6-11 power forward a lottery pick with the No. 7 selection overall.

He averaged 8 points and 6.4 rebounds in 778 career games. Wright's best season as a Hawk was 2000-01, when he averaged 12.4 points and 7.5 rebounds.

By nightfall Wednesday, nearly 200 people had visited the road blocked off by police while TV news helicopters showed investigators scouring the grounds for evidence. Police brought in a mobile command center that further blocked off the scene.

Former NBA star Penny Hardaway, who played at Memphis two years before Wright, said he heard the news from a friend and went to the scene near where the body was found.

"I cried. The emotions hit me immediately. It's just sad because we lost a good person and a brother," Hardaway said.

Elliot Perry, another friend and former Memphis player, also was at the scene. Wendy Wilson, who once worked as Wright's personal assistant, also was there and said Wright often used the road police had cordoned off as a shortcut to his mother's house.

"He was a good person. He did not deserve to die this way. God is not pleased with this," Wilson said.

Memphis Grizzlies majority owner Michael Heisley issued a statement late Wednesday saying, "We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of Lorenzen Wright. We lost a member of the Grizzlies family. Lorenzen delighted fans on the court with his passion and off the court with his generosity in a Memphis community that watched him grow throughout his playing career ..."

Wright attended a couple of Hawks playoff games this spring, supporting his friend Josh Smith.

In January, Wright ran into Hawks vice president of public relations Arthur Triche at a restaurant, where they watched the BCS championship game.

"He was still the same outgoing, gregarious individual he always was," Triche told the AJC. "Nothing would have led us to believe something like this would happen."

Wright spoke then of catching on with another NBA team.

Wright's friend, Jeremy Orange, told the Commercial Appeal that Wright was dealing with a fractured thumb that ended his career, financial woes and a divorce finalized in January.

But Wright had two NBA teams inviting him to tryouts, and he was scheduled to fly to Israel last weekend to try out for a team there, Wright's roommate told the Commercial Appeal.

The paper reported Wright's custom-built 17-room home in Eads, Tenn., was repossessed in May for $1.3 million, and that his Atlanta house was repossessed in January for $1.1 million.

Friends described Wright as a dedicated father to his four sons and two daughters, ages 4 to 15.

-- The Associated Press and AJC staff writers Kristi E. Swartz, Marcus K. Garner, Larry Hartstein and Chelsea Cook contributed to this report.