Wesley Matthews holds no grudge against the Mavericks.
He knows that rebuilding organizations have to do what they think is best for their future.
That said, he issued a half-joking, half-intimidating proclamation Tuesday after the Pacers practiced at American Airlines Center in advance of Wednesday’s game game.
“They got to do what they got to do, but I’m still going to try to kill ‘em,” Matthews said. “I’m going to try to take all their heads off.
“And if that ball bounces too close to Rick (Carlisle), I’ll go for that, too. Same with (Mark) Cuban, if that ball bounces too close to the sideline and I can save it, he better have his hands ready.”
Carlisle and Cuban would expect nothing less out of Matthews. Nor would Maverick fans.
The 32-year-old was a Maverick for three-and-a-half seasons and he has landed in Indiana with the Pacers. Matthews has had a whirlwind month since being traded to the New York Knicks on Jan. 31.
He has gotten to a place he’s familiar with. Not Indiana. But being in the middle of a hot playoff chase, which the Pacers are in the Eastern Conference.
“I love it. I love it. I can’t say anything other than I love it,” Matthews said. “I will never take for granted or be ungrateful for this opportunity and this moment I’m in. This is what I know, what I’ve become accustomed to.
“In my first year in Dallas, we were in that situation. And since then it hasn’t been. And you miss it. You want to be in this situation.”
To say the least, the last month has been a whirlwind for Matthews. It started on Jan. 30 when the Mavericks won at New York and the starting lineup included Matthews, DeAndre Jordan, Dennis Smith Jr. and Harrison Barnes – all of whom play elsewhere now.
It was the start of a crazy stretch for Matthews. And he said the trade to New York was not something he saw coming.
“I for sure was not expecting it,” Matthews said. “We’d heard trade talks about me and Dennis and it was all about Phoenix or Orlando. Once Dennis (who had been away from the team) returned, we were like, all-right, everything’s subsided. I kind of had my mind on the idea that we were here for the long haul and we were going to finish out the season and finish it out the right way and see if we can make a little push.
“We played in New York, had a win, a nice night, and then we get to Detroit on a back-to-back and I take my pregame nap, I wake up and got a thousand messages that I was traded.
“They could have just left us there, right?”
The stay in New York was brief, although Matthews said the experience with the people and the city was good. He enjoyed the stay and the vision that the franchise had.
However, Matthews knew something wasn’t right.
“At this point in my career, I feel like I still have a lot left to give a team and a lot in the tank and a lot that I still want to accomplish,” Matthews said. “As soon as that trade happened, teams were knocking on our door right away.
“I started looking at opportunities to get to a situation where I could be in the playoffs.”
Matthews and his agent worked with the Knicks and the Pacers were there with a starting spot and a good fit for a player who has made his career out of hitting 3-point shots and playing sticky defense.
Matthews’ game against the Mavericks will be his sixth as a Pacer. In the first five, all starts, he has averaged 13.6 points and shot 44.1 percent from 3-point range. That’s a substantial upgrade from the 38 percent he was shooting in his 44 games with the Mavericks.
Admittedly, the time in Indiana is a small sample size. But so far, the Pacers have loved Matthews’ grit and his shooting.
And landing in Indiana has been a nice way to end the crazy adventure Matthews has been on for the past month.
“He brings a competitiveness to the locker room that you want,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “Our guys compete, but when you have a guy like that who wears his attitude on his sleeve, that rubs off on guys. I worked with him in Portland and we brought him on board. He’s still got that same fire toward the game that you want. He’s still playing to prove himself.”
That will never change for Matthews.
He also will not forget his three-plus years in Dallas. He hopes the fans will feel the same way Wednesday night.
“I gave everything I had every single night,” he said. “I don’t have any regrets. I busted my ass to get back and get ready. And I laid it on the line. The fans were good to me”