Aside from their much-needed victory over Orlando Thursday night, the Portland Trail Blazers have had a rough year. Greg Oden's out for the year (again), and the former No. 1 overall pick may have played his last game in a Blazers uniform. Brandon Roy is hobbled with bad knees.
Suddenly, getting to .500 for the Blazers (11-11) feels like some sort of accomplishment after they recently lost six in a row prior to their current three-game winning streak. But one bright spot throughout has been Wesley Matthews, whose five-year, $32 million conrtract as a restricted free agent raised plenty of eyebrows this past summer.
Overpaid? Not quite. Matthews addressed his contract, his famous basketball-playing parents, and what it was like to grow up without knowing his father, former Laker Wesley Matthews III, in an exclusive interview with CBSSports.com.
"Difficult growing up when I was younger," Matthews said. "It was tough because he went to school in Madison [Wisc.] and that's where I grew up, and so everybody knew the name. So right away, everybody put that connection with me and my father, and he wasn’t around. As I got older, our relationship grew and we're closer now. Still not where we need to be, but I didn't expect it to be that way right now. We're growing, we're getting better, we talk, we talk often, and our relationship is on the rise."
Matthews' father won two championships with the Showtime Lakers in the 1980s, but split with his wife, Pam Moore, when the younger Matthews was only a toddler. Matthews IV shares the same competitive streak that his father had -- Matthews III famously got under Xavier McDaniel's skin so badly one night that the X-Man put him in a choke hold -- but that trait wasn't exclusive to him.
Moore, a basketball and track star at the University of Wisconsin, raised Matthews IV alone in Madison, and he credits her influence more than anything else for his success. When Matthews IV got his front-loaded contract -- with more than $9 million up front -- he finally persuaded his mom to retire and put the wheels in motion to buy her the first home she has ever owned.
"It's the best feeling of my life, being able top let my mom relax," Matthews said. "She's still not relaxed, but she's trying. She's not very good at relaxing yet, but she doesn't have to get up and go to work. All she's doing is helping take care of my business, what's going on with me, and she loves doing that. It's been a blessing being able to do that for her."
Matthews has one bone to pick with his mom: He doesn't quite believe the tale of her supposed 50-point, 50-rebound game in high school.
"I haven't been able to prove it to be true, but I can't see it -- 50 points and 50 rebounds," Matthews said. "She wouldn't lie, but she might stretch the truth a little bit."
However this season turns out for the Blazers -- who, according to rival executives are considering a plan to trade older players like Andre Miller and Marcus Camby and set themselves up for a new labor agreement with a younger roster and more flexible payroll -- they appear to have found a gem in Matthews. An undrafted free agent out of Marquette who played his rookie season in Utah, Matthews is averaging 14.7 points per game and shooting .465 from the field and .354 from 3-point range. Instead of accepting the pundits' conclusion that he's overpaid, Matthews is making a name for himself and could wind up being an extremely valuable backup plan if Roy's knees deteriorate further.
"They can say whatever they want to say -- overpaid, underpaid, paid correctly, I don’t know," Matthews said. "The only claim that I can state is I work, and I refuse to be outworked. I always want to get better, I'll be the first to critique myself, and I love winning."