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.”