It was March 5, 2015 when Wesley Matthews and the Portland Trailblazers took on our Dallas Mavericks. The Blazers ended up winning that game 94-75, but ended up losing something far more valuable.
Tough it was. The Blazers went 10-12 the remainder of the regular season and were bounced by the Memphis Grizzlies in 5 games in the opening round of the 2014-2015 Playoffs. The summer came and went with no phone calls or text messages from the Blazers front office to Matthews or his agent.
“I was pissed off. I felt disrespected…I also realize this is a business.”
A cruel business indeed. At the same time, it was understandable that teams would shy away from looking at player who tore his Achilles just 3 months prior. There was no way he would be ready for the upcoming season, and maybe not until Christmas. The problem with that assumption is if anyone should know Matthews work ethic and iron will, it should have been the Blazers.
So while Matthews may have been waiting for that phone call as free agency began, he got a call he wasn’t expecting. Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks.
“One of the first things he said to me was he wanted me to be a cornerstone piece of that franchise moving forward,” Matthews said. “From coaches, to GM to owner — complete confidence. That’s all I wanted. That’s all I wanted.”
If there is anything we have learned from Wesley Matthews in his short stint with the Mavericks is that you will be hard pressed to find a player more motivated and driven than him. You tell him there is something you can’t do, and he will do everything in his power to prove you wrong. Take for instance on Media Day back in September, when Rick Carlisle had this to say about Matthews returning around Christmas:
“It could be sooner. It’s hard to say. His court activity has been ramped up some. He will participate in certain aspects of training camp, but nothing live to start with.”
Then Wesley Matthews gave Rick Carlisle his first lesson in Iron Man 101, when the Mavericks took on the Phoenix Suns in the season opener, with Matthews right there to help lead the charge. He has to work his way back into playing shape, which is still a work in progress, but when he’s out there, he provides the Mavericks a threat from deep, and is a true two way player on the court. For a team that has to face the inevitable departure of Dirk Nowitzki in a matter of years, they can rest easy knowing they have someone who can be a true leader on and off the court, and a player who is so ready to give everything to a franchise that has complete faith in him.
It’s been 272 days since Matthews put on that Portland Trailblazers uniform, and tonight he will return to take them on as a member of the Mavericks.
Via Tim MacMahon:
Do you expect a warm reception at the Moda Center?
“I don’t see why not. I’ve given the fans everything I had every single night, and I feel like they gave that back to me. I’m excited to go there, to play there, to be on the court, to be standing. My last memory there was on my back.”
How would you describe the relationship you had with the fans in Portland?
“I think it’s a great one. We grew together. I was always appreciative of them. I know it probably took them a little bit to warm up to me. I mean, here I am, this undrafted rookie free agent that just signed for $35 million. Coming in, B. Roy’s there, Greg Oden’s there, LaMarcus is there, Nic [Batum] is there, Andre Miller is there, [Marcus] Camby. I mean, so many fan favorites are there. Who am I? I think I won them over by every single night leaving everything I had out there.”
So I hear the arrow [3-pointer] celebration will be shelved in Portland. Why?
“Just out of a little respect to the fans. That’s where it originated. Not going to shoot one at them. It doesn’t means the 3s aren’t going to be falling, but I’m not going to shoot one [arrow].”
The Mavericks will have at least 4 meetings with the Blazers this season, and Matthews will be ready for each and every one of them. If you haven’t figured it out by now, it doesn’t take much to motivate “Iron Man”. He was undrafted, and has worn that on his sleeve from the get go. Tonight, no phone calls or text messages will be needed. The dog is ready to be unleashed.
“I have a complete franchise backing me,” Matthews says. “Imagine what kind of dog I will be now.”
Quotes From Jason Quick / Oregonian
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