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Tag:Wesley Matthews
Posted on: December 10, 2010 12:02 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2010 12:05 pm
 

In the Moment: Wesley Matthews

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."


Posted on: November 29, 2010 12:12 am
 

With Roy hurting, Blazers have decision to make

NEWARK, N.J. – The Trail Blazers had one of those players-only meetings Sunday night, which is what playoff teams do when they’ve lost three straight games, fallen to .500, and shown a startling in ability to close out games – at home and on the road.

The culprit? Lack of execution, according to coach Nate McMillan. Lack of rhythm, added Brandon Roy. Effort, said Wesley Matthews. All good answers. But not the answer – not the problem that looks like it’s going to haunt the Blazers for months, if not longer.

It was the lowest point of the season, everyone in the visiting locker room agreed after Portland turned in another lackluster fourth quarter and lost to the Nets 98-96. What’s scary about the Blazers, the team with by far the worst injury luck in the NBA, is that calling it the lowest point was optimistic. It may very well not be.

When it rains on the Trail Blazers, it pours with a ferocity rarely seen. Greg Oden is recovering from his second microfracture surgery. Joel Przybilla was supposed to play his first game in almost a year Friday night against New Orleans and got sick. Sean Marks, signed as a stopgap to play 8-10 minutes again under the basket, is shelved with an ankle injury. And yet somehow, those aren’t the biggest concerns for a team whose future was once so bright. Roy, Portland’s superstar and closer, clearly isn’t physically able to perform either of those roles – and it’s not even December yet. His left knee is something all the players-only meetings in the world won’t fix.

“I’m fine,” Roy said “I’m playing. I don’t have any excuses.”

Nor would you expect any from a guy who came back about a week after arthroscopic knee surgery and played – or tried to – in a playoff series against Phoenix last spring. Now Roy has played two games since sitting out three when his left knee started barking at him again. The numbers say he’s thriving – 21 points on 9-for-16 shooting from the field against the Nets after scoring 27 points on 10-for-20 shooting in a 97-78 home loss to the Hornets Friday night. The visual evidence says otherwise.

A little less wincing and limping was evident after both were on hideous display in the New Orleans game, but the fact remains that Roy is 26 years old and has no meniscus in either knee. And it shows. Instead of closing out a winnable game, Roy settled into the role of decoy. As a result, the Blazers’ offense stagnated in the fourth quarter again. After producing only 13 points in the fourth against New Orleans, the Blazers went into the fourth with a five-point lead over the Nets and got outscored 25-18.

Their poor excuse for execution, though, is the least of their problems. Roy, a player built to attack off the dribble and get to the rim, has been mostly relegated to the role of innocuous spot-up shooter. The explosiveness isn’t there, and neither is the confidence to finish at the basket. And so the Blazers head to Philadelphia for the first set of back-to-back games since Roy returned not knowing if he’ll be able to play the back end in Boston Wednesday night.

“We’ll see how he goes against Philly,” McMillan said. “If he feels OK, he’ll play the back-to-back. And if not, then we’ll sit him.”

And that is where the Blazers are – a .500 team on a three-game losing streak with their star and closer working on a 30-35 minute limit and unsure when, or if his knee will be strong enough to play back-to-backs. It’s a game-to-game predicament for Roy and the Blazers, making it exceedingly difficult for them to form an identity down the stretch of games.

“For me, it’s frustrating,” said Roy, who had four points and two turnovers in the fourth quarter – dribbling the ball off his foot and falling awkwardly out of bounds while trying to drive on Travis Outlaw for one of the miscues. “I’ve always been pretty good late in games. Right now, I’m trying to get my rhythm back, my timing back late in the game.”

The Blazers are a team without rhythm or timing, and the prospects look grim for them to be a team with a healthy Roy for the long haul. It’s a young season, they kept saying. But it gets older by the day as Roy’s struggles become more difficult to watch.

With free-agent shooting guard Wesley Matthews eager for a bigger role and capable of justifying his five-year, $32 million contract, it makes you wonder if it might be best for everyone involved to shut Roy down indefinitely so he has a chance to be a factor come playoff time. McMillan sent Matthews out with the starters at the beginning of the third quarter, in place of Nicolas Batum, and the reasons he gave were eye-opening. Accurate, but eye-opening.

McMillan said he was looking for some “scrappiness” and “fire,” and turned to Matthews to supply it. These are things that Roy brings on a nightly basis, except now, when he can’t.

The only problem with my solution is that there’s a good chance it might not help. Privately, Blazers officials are optimistic that the training staff, Roy and McMillan will be able to find a way to manage his injury and keep him effective enough – often enough – to carry them where they need to go. But that isn’t working so far, and it’s worth wondering if the alternative would work better. Let your superstar get better – or at least try – and figure out how to close games with Matthews doing what Roy used to do.

“We’re at a tough point right now, but it’s a young season,” Roy said. “We’ve lost three games in a row and we’re .500, so yeah, it’s a difficult time. We’ve got to stick together and find out what we’re made of.”
 
 
 
 
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