Wesley Matthews‘ stellar run with the Portland Trail Blazers came to an unceremonious end this summer when his expectations were met by deafening silence from front office brass, who apparently declined to make even the most modest attempt to re-sign him in free agency before he skipped town for Dallas.
Despite Matthews suffering a devastating Achilles injury just before the playoffs – which subsequently torpedoed the Blazers’ championship aspirations – Mark Cuban and the Mavs still offered him the type of large, multi-year contract (four years, $57 million) that Portland just wasn’t willing to extend. They even subsequently tacked on an extra $13 million to his original deal – for a total of $70 million over four years – after DeAndre Jordan reneged on his agreement.
In the third installment of the series “The Rebuilding Iron Man” by The Oregonian’s Jason Quick, Matthews doesn’t pull any punches about how he felt in the wake of the Blazers’ handling of his free agency.
“I was pissed off,” Matthews said. “I felt disrespected.”
“I was angry,” Matthews said, “but I also realize that this is a business.”
Recognizing the nature of the business doesn’t necessarily make it any more palatable. After all, Matthews had become a fan favorite in Portland and one of the stabilizing forces on a team forced to weather all sorts of upheaval over the years, including career-altering injuries, roster turnover, and front office shakeups.
After initially going un-drafted, Matthews showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie season with the Utah Jazz in 2009-2010, so much so that the Blazers brought him aboard the following season, where he eventually evolved into one of the three or four best shooters in the entire league as well as one of the best defensive stoppers at his position.
But Matthews was always, at best, a third option on a team with two bonafide All-Stars in LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. Cuban understands the psychology of an NBA player as well or better than any owner in the league, and he knows all the right buttons to push. It’s why he referred to DeAndre Jordan as “Shaq-like.” He used the same tactic on Matthews during their courtship when he positioned him as a franchise cornerstone.
“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.
“I told Cuban this the other day: This is the first time, head-to-toe, that an organization has had faith and confidence in me,” Matthews said. “From coaches, to GM to owner — complete confidence. That’s all I wanted. That’s all I wanted.”
Coupled with his incumbent team’s apparent disinterest, it was more than enough to convince Matthews to take the plunge. But he still faces a long road ahead. Even Cuban admitted that he wasn’t necessarily expecting much from him during his first season in Dallas. That, along with losing Jordan, has upended any chances of an extended postseason this year or the next.
There’s also no guarantee he’ll ever return to his pre-injury form, and even if he does, he still faces the much larger question of whether he can lead a championship run as the focal point of a team. Matthews was primarily a spot-up shooter within Terry Stotts’ offense in Portland; the vast majority of the shots he took last season were three-pointers that were assisted by other teammates.
It remains to be seen whether he can transform into the type of playmaker and scorer who can create his own shots and facilitate the offense for his teammates. But then again, Matthews has always thrived on doubt, so it will be fascinating to watch him try.
(via The Oregonian)