It’s never a good feeling when you get dissed by the one you love. It creates bitterness. And anger. And it makes you look at things a little bit differently, more cynically. Such is the case of one Wesley Matthews who wanted to return to Portland, his home of the last five years. Portland had different ideas though and it had nothing to do with Matthews ripping out his Achilles and being carried off the court in a game in March.
But the thing that makes athletes say what the f**k is the hypocrisy of organizations who ask players to be loyal and take less money and then they themselves turn around and screw loyalty in the face. Matthews, the hardest working player on the Blazers and who LaMarcus Aldridge called the heart and soul of the team was denied the courtesy of a phone call or a thank you for everything last hug. So much for being part of the Blazers family.
Wesley Matthews signed a free agent deal in 2010 with the Portland Trailblazers after his rookie season with Utah. The undrafted shooting guard shot 48% and 38% from three in his first NBA season but it was his smothering defense that had the Blazers putting their money where their mouth was, paying Matthews $34 million for five years. At the time it was a contract that shook heads but Matthews more than lived up to the promise the Blazers saw in him.
Five years later, Matthews had a career high in rebounds (3.7) and his 15.9 points was only second to the year before when he averaged 16.4 points. He was the third leading scorer on the team behind Aldridge and Damian Lillard.
In the regular season, Matthews was a top 15 shooting guard, distinguishing himself by his defensive intensity and his ability to make open threes. Then in March, in a game against the Mavericks, Matthews ripped his Achilles, the worst injury a shooting guard can suffer.
“I’ve made that same cut hundreds of thousand times in my life. I heard the initial pop and I think you guys could tell on the replay I looked back and it feels like someone kicked you. I was praying that someone was back there. No one was back there and I heard Ron Garretson, the ref, he actually says, ‘Oh no’ like he knew.”
To add insult to injury this was a contract year for Wesley Matthews who ended his very good season with surgery and a 6-9 month rehab. Questions always persist coming off an Achilles injury but in Matthews case his game has never been predicated on pure speed, explosiveness or athleticism. If that had been the case, he would have been drafted.
Matthews is tough, physical, crafty and intelligent. Still. So much was up in the air during the free agency negotiating period. Would a contender take a chance on him? Would the injury give the front office of whatever team made a run at him an opportunity to suppress his salary to numbers that were beneath his resume and his ability?
Yes and no. He was attractive to the Dallas Mavericks, the team that saw first hand Matthews crumble to the court only to be carried off, dejected and depressed, in Achilles hell.
“I’m frustrated man”, Matthews said after the rupture. “I’m frustrated. They say everything happens for a reason and I was thinking it too. But what was the reason? I can’t find it right now.”
Four months later the frustration has ebbed to a crawl as Matthews is suddenly the highest paid player on the Mavericks. He was expected to be a teammate of DeAndre Jordan but Jordan backed out so Mark Cuban sweetened Matthews pot of gold, rewarding him for having the character to stand by his commmittment.
But as pleased as Matthews is to be in Dallas, he is just as pissed at what the Blazers did to him at the very end. He also thinks he is a better player than DeMarre Carroll and Khris Middleton who received huge paydays in the off-season which is what you want in a player you are paying $16 million dollars to. Ego has to motivate him into believing he has no peers but ego also has to seduce him into thinking he was wronged. It’s an old Michael Jordan playbook trick but the jury is still out on Matthew’s season. He has to recover from his injury. If and when he does will he be a mad player? An average player? Or will he live up to his contract?
A lot is on the Mavs plate this season. They are trying to erase the Deron Williams ghost, heal Chandler Parson’s knee, establish a fountain of youth for Dirk Nowitzki, pretend Raymond Felton is a NBA player and work magic with a bunch of blah talents. Matthews is the leader of the bunch in salary. Can he lead the Mavericks anywhere but to the lottery line? Obviously the Blazers weren’t convinced and weren’t loyal enough and have turned the page.
Now it’s Wesley Matthews turn.
photo via llananba