Wesley Matthews continues to focus on his return, though season opener viewed as ‘long shot’

Practice Report: Wes Matthews

Wes Matthews on how important it is for him to be ready by opening night: "I don't miss games. I don't sit out. I don't miss practices. I want to be ready. I love basketball. I love this game and I think the best way you pay respects to it is by giving everything you have."

DALLAS — He was the prized offseason signing for the Dallas Mavericks this summer in free agency, inking a reported four-year deal worth $70 million to come to town after five seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Now, while rehabbing his way back from a torn left Achilles tendon, swingman Wesley Matthews says he’s doing everything in his power to be on the court by Opening Night when the Mavericks begin the regular season in Phoenix on Oct. 28.

Matthews saw his 2014-15 season cut short after suffering the injury against the Mavericks on March 5. The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder averaged 15.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 60 games for Portland last season prior to the injury. He also connected on 44.8 percent from the field, swishing in 38.9 percent from behind the three-point arc to make the six-year pro an attractive prospect for the Dallas front office during free agency.

And with the goal of being ready for the season opener still at the top of his agenda, Matthews has entered the team’s training camp working closely with Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle and head athletic trainer Casey Smith to get back to 100 percent.

“Every day, every practice, we’re getting stronger and getting better,” Matthews said while giving an injury update following the team’s Wednesday practice. “You know, right now, it’s strength and it’s timing. You know, I haven’t been able to run in six months, let alone do basketball stuff, so it’s an adjustment. But today I was a lot better than I was yesterday, and the most important thing is there’s no soreness.

“It’s more of just a patience thing,” he added. “It’s something that you can’t rush and you can’t push. Like I said at the press conference (on Media Day), it’s like a battle that I’ve never experienced before, because it’s like a battle against my own body. It’s not an opponent or anybody but me, so I’m being receptive to what my body is telling me. I’m listening and trusting what the experts are saying and pushing within the limits.”

Matthews has yet to be cleared for full contact or full-speed drills, hoping to receive permission to take the restrictions off by the end of the first week of training camp. He’s then expected to slide into the Mavs’ starting lineup this season, looking to fill a void at shooting guard left by the free-agent departure of leading scorer Monta Ellis to Indiana.

The San Antonio native and son of two-time NBA champion Wesley Matthews Sr. played four collegiate seasons at Marquette, averaging 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals in 35 games as a senior to earn All-Big East Second Team honors. For his NBA career, he’s averaged 14.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals in his six professional seasons, making 381 starts in 441 total games.

Matthews now vows to take the court even better than he was before the injury, looking to showcase versatility during his first season with the Mavs.

“You know, we’re still progressing up to that, and I think we’ll start doing that by the end of the week,” Matthews said when gaging how soon he will be able to go through contact drills. “You know, I’m on the treadmill and we will incorporate that down to the court, but for now it’s a lot. You know, it’s a lot to load up right now. Right now, I’m responding how I figured I’d respond.

“I mean, obviously, it’s going to be a challenge. It’s going to be tough, but I think you guys are going to quickly know me. If you didn’t get it by the press conference, I don’t really care about what’s tough. You know, I’m going to get it done. It will be a challenge, but we’ll get there. You know, I’m doing three different (forms of cardio) a day. Obviously, you can’t simulate games until you’re in it and I’ll be winded for a little bit, but I’ll be alright. I’ve gotten better every single year, and I’m a no-excuse type of person. I felt that, if I had not gotten hurt, I would have been a lot better this next season. I’m not going to let an Achilles take that away from me. I put too much into this game. I care too much about this game. I want to win too badly to not become a better player. And I already feel it.”

Matthews has played in all 82 games three times in his young career, displaying his durability prior to going down with the injury last season. He now hopes to pick up where he left off at, looking to develop into the team’s iron man.

With that said, Carlisle is tempering the expectations for Matthews’ return to the court, taking a more cautious approach as the sharpshooter heads into the first season of a four-year deal.

“You know, the possibility of Wes being back for the opening game has not been ruled out. I personally view it as a bit of a long shot, but it is possible. He has done extremely well, and how it goes over the next few weeks will determine where he’s at,” Carlisle confessed.

Entering the league as an undrafted free agent with Utah before the ’09-10 season, Matthews has been defying the offs ever since. He also has seen growth in his game every season, expecting for that trend to continue during the upcoming schedule.

Known for providing stellar perimeter defense, Matthews also left Portland as the franchise leader in made three-pointers with 826. Matthews now sets out to shake himself free of the three-and-D label, hoping to display his full offensive repertoire in Carlisle’s system.

And while still targeting the opening game as his return date, Matthews doesn’t think the Mavericks’ fan base will have to wait long to see dividends from the organization’s investment.

“I don’t miss games, I don’t sit out, I don’t miss practices, and I want to be ready,” Matthews proclaimed. “I love basketball. I love this game. And I think the best way you pay respects to it is by giving everything you have. You know, I don’t want to wait. Again, I’m not pushing it. But if I’m ready to go, I want to be out there.

“I definitely understand the business aspect of it, and I understand that they want me. It’s a great thing to be wanted by a franchise, and they want me. Of course, they want me for four years. I just feel like the four years start Opening Night.”

Mavs look to make proper adjustments before Wednesday’s battle against Phoenix

DALLAS — Despite injuries to two of their top contributors during a critical stretch of the schedule, the Dallas Mavericks know they’ll have to make plenty of adjustments prior to Wednesday night’s showdown against the Phoenix Suns.

Suffering a 108-101 loss Thursday night against Houston to begin a three-game homestand, the Mavericks (46-31) would lose starting small forward Chandler Parsons in the third quarter due to right knee swelling. Minus Parsons two nights later, the Mavs wouldn’t be able to get back on track while sliding to a 123-110 defeat Saturday to the NBA-best Golden State Warriors, finishing that game without point guard Rajon Rondo after he exited in the second half with a hyperextended left knee.

The statuses of Parsons and Rondo remain unclear as the Mavs now hope to get healthy over the next two days. Still, while looking to avenge three previous losses to the Suns (39-38) earlier in the season, the Mavericks will attempt to finish off their homestand on a positive note before journeying back out on the road for a three-game trip.

And after getting a taste of playoff basketball in their last two losses, the Mavs will try to increase their level of play as the regular season draws to a close.

“We’re going to have to play better,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle confessed following the lopsided loss to the Warriors. “This team we were playing (Saturday) is the best team in basketball. This is a preview of the kind of competition you’re going to see in the playoffs, and so our two days of practice leading into the Phoenix game are going to be very important for playoff preparation and for preparing for another game that is a playoff-style game with Phoenix. They’re very physical and they’re a team we’ve had problems with all year. Right now, we’ve really got to work on getting ourselves playing better.”

“We’ve got a couple of practice days ahead of us, so we just need to do a good job of getting back to the basics,” Mavs center Tyson Chandler echoed. “You know, concentrating on defense again and rebounding and limiting teams to tough shots.”

Taking the Easter holiday off, the Mavericks hope to return to 100 percent in time for Wednesday’s outing following two days of practice. However, after dropping six of eight since a three-game win streak, the Mavs will try to learn from the mistakes made in the three previous matchups against the Suns while looking to avoid the season series sweep.

Falling to a 118-106 loss at home to the Suns back on Dec. 5, the Mavs would then slide to a 124-115 defeat in Phoenix on Dec. 23. The Mavericks would slip again away from home in the third meeting between the two teams following a 98-92 loss on March 22, making Wednesday’s outing vital for the team’s psyche as the playoffs rapidly approach.

The Mavericks currently sit in the seventh position of the Western Conference standings, holding a four-game edge in front of Oklahoma City and ahead by 4 1/2 games over New Orleans in the race for the final two playoff spots. And although the Suns are a full seven games back of the Mavs in the standings, Wednesday’s showdown could prove pivotal while deciding postseason positioning.

“Get some rest (Sunday), get some banged-up guys healthy and then go to work,” 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki explained while discussing what the Mavs need to do to get back on track.

He added: “Phoenix has beaten us three times this year. They’ve been a tough team for us. They attack at the guard spots, and they’ve got some mobile bigs. They push the pace, and so we’ll get ready Monday and have a good day Monday. We’ll probably taper back some Tuesday and be ready to play Wednesday.”

Note: Returning to action at American Airlines Center on Wednesday night, the Mavericks will next host the Phoenix Suns. Phoenix leads the season series 3-0. The game will air nationally on ESPN and locally on TXA 21 at 8:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.

Injury updates presented by Baylor Emergency Medical Centers:

Chandler Parsons, right knee swelling, day-to-day
Rajon Rondo, hyperextended left knee, day-to-day

Chandler Parsons, Rajon Rondo step up in Mavs’ 1st test without Monta Ellis

DALLAS — Albeit in a loss, the Dallas Mavericks now know that their offensive attack figures to be in good hands while leading scorer Monta Ellis nurses his way back to 100 percent.

Exiting in the third quarter of Friday’s 94-76 loss at San Antonio with a lower right leg injury, Ellis saw his streak of 237 consecutive games played come to an end two nights later as the Mavericks (45-29) traveled to Indiana for a second meeting of the season against the Pacers (32-41). And although the Mavs would limp away with a 104-99 loss, they’d also leave the court encouraged by the play of small forward Chandler Parsons and point guard Rajon Rondo with Ellis on the mend.

“Our offense was dictated off how we got stops in the first half, and we were able to push the pace. Even on a lot of makes in the first half, we were able to push the pace. But, in the second half, it seemed like every shot that they made took a blow out of us. We weren’t able to keep the pace,” Rondo explained.

“It’s frustrating, because we showed how good we can be and how easily it looks at times,” Parsons added. “Then, we make it more difficult than we have to. We played well. They just hit some big shots, and we didn’t get the shots we needed to down the stretch.”

Scoring 27 points on 11-of-20 shooting, Parsons also snatched down 10 rebounds to record a double-double. Meanwhile, Rondo filled up the stat sheet by posting 17 points, grabbing seven boards and dished out 10 assists. And although they walked away with a hard-fought defeat, the Mavericks were still encouraged that they can remain afloat in the playoff race while awaiting Ellis’ return to action.

“I thought they were both great — attacking, getting to the basket, getting in the lane and getting other guys involved,” 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki said of the pair of new additions following Sunday’s loss. “Parsons had some tough finishes in there. And like I said, it was just a few plays here and there.

“I thought we were fine there for a while, but usually (Ellis) is our closer. He’s got the ball in his hands at the end a lot, and we definitely missed that. It’s his attacking and his mid-range game off the pick-and-rolls, and we definitely would have loved to have him down the stretch. But, hey, we had guys step up, and Parsons and Rondo were phenomenal.”

However, while Rondo will be asked to continue to impact the game in an assortment of ways, it’s Parsons that will likely have to assume more of Ellis’ scoring responsibilities until the nine-year veteran returns to the floor.

Since missing seven games due to a sprained left ankle and bone bruise, Parsons has scored in double figures eight of the last 10 games. He’s also scored 17.2 points an outing, which is up from his season average of 15.7, in addition to shooting 50.8 percent during that span.

Still, with Ellis out of action on Sunday, the 6-foot-9 forward showed that he can evaluate his game to be the team’s go-to scorer when called upon. And despite sliding down to play shooting guard alongside veteran swingman Richard Jefferson, Parsons impressed Mavs coach Rick Carlisle by shouldering a heavier load.

“I liked Parsons’ game,” Carlisle said of the fourth-year forward’s outing on Sunday. “You know, other than a couple of tough turnovers in the fourth, I thought he played terrific. I thought he was aggressive, and he picked his spots well to attack and made some difficult shots. Look, he’s an important guy for us, and really he’s playing the two position when he’s playing with (Jefferson). That’s an adjustment, but I thought he adjusted well.”

Note: The Mavericks will now travel to Oklahoma City for Wednesday’s matchup against the Thunder. The Mavs lead the season series 2-1. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7 p.m. CT.

Returning to action at American Airlines Center next Thursday night, the Mavericks will then host the Houston Rockets. Houston leads the season series 2-1. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.

Injury updates presented by Baylor Emergency Medical Centers:

J.J. Barea, sprained left ankle, questionable
Monta Ellis, lower right leg injury, questionable

Game 58: Mavs vs. Hornets

Highlights: Mavs vs. Hornets – 2/22/15

Amar’e Stoudemire scored 14 points in his Dallas Mavericks debut and Monta Ellis added 14 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 23 as the Mavericks beat Charlotte 92-81.

Game 54: Mavs vs. Clippers

Star Wars Night

Mavs fans were rowdy, proud and loud for Star Wars night at the AAC!

Game 53: Mavs vs. Trail Blazers

Highlights: Mavs vs. Blazers – 2/7/15

Dirk Nowitzki hit a 3-pointer to force overtime and the Mavericks never looked back as they beat the Trail Blazers 111-101. Tyson Chandler recorded his 23rd double-double of the season.

Game 52: Mavs at Kings

Highlights: Mavs vs. Kings – 2/5/15

Monta Ellis scores 21 points and dishes out 6 assists as the Mavericks defeat the Kings 101-78.