When Portland Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews has the ball with the shot-clock running down and he's being guarded straight up, chances are he's going to his go-to move...the step-back pull-up jumper.
The step-back is set up by driving towards the basket, forcing the defender to move with you as if your plan is to go all the way to the hole, then all of a sudden, you take a step back with your left or right leg (depending on which way you're stepping back) and gather yourself in a swift motion before taking the shot.
If done correctly, the defender is off balance and is not in a position to recover over to challenge the shot in a timely fashion.
“If they try to jump on it (the step-back), I'm going to go by you,” Matthews told CSNNW.com. “I don't want to have to step-back. I would rather be able to just go by a person, but if they happen to cut me off, that's going to happen.”
This year, there seldom has been a game that Matthews hasn't pulled off his patented move. With the Trail Blazers hiring an offensive-minded Head Coach in Terry Stotts last summer, you might have thought Stotts was in favor of Matthews taking more step-backs this season.
Well, not quite.
It turns out, Stotts is not a huge fan of the move.
“I think it's a very difficult shot that only a few players can consistently make,” Stotts said. “I think it's a shot that you have to practice. It takes a lot of leg strength. I think it's a very effective shot if someone is good at it because it creates separation and you can get a shot off. I think it's a shot that if you can get off, it looks good, but I don't think it's a high percentage shot for a lot of players.”
Entering his first season as the Trail Blazers' Head Coach, he said he didn't necessarily know what the go-to moves were for certain players on this team. He realized quickly what Matthews' move was.
So Stotts watched, and watched, and watched Matthews in practice to see if this would be an efficient shot capable of being utilized in live game situations.
Matthews made a believer out of him.
“He's proved to me that he can make it,” Stotts said. “I don't like hesitation on jump-shots, but Glen Robinson had a great hitch in his jump-shot and he showed he can make it. I think when it becomes a nuance in a players' game that shows it's an effective move for that player, then by all means, he should shoot.”
Matthews says earlier this month in Minnesota was when he found out first hand that Stotts' wasn't a step-back fan.
“It was funny,” Matthews said. “He said he wasn't a fan of it, but it's something that I've been doing my whole career. In that Minnesota game, I got hot and I took a quick early one (step-back) and made it and I came down and shot another quick one and it got blocked and went out of bounds.
“Coach kind of brought it up in a timeout about shot selection and time and he brought it to my attention that he wasn't a fan of the step-back and I was like, huh? Now it's like every time I take a step-back, I laugh to myself. I mean, I can't abandon it. I don't know if he's a fan of it yet, but he's alright with it.”
Matthews has had more freedom on offense under Stotts' system than any other time in his career. He's being placed in pick-and-roll situations, post-ups, and he often finds himself with the ball with three or less seconds left on the shot-clock to work his magic.
According to the fourth-year guard out of Marquette, for the first time in his NBA career, he has been able to showcase that he's not just a high energy defensive player.
“Defense is just one of the things that I do. I've always been a scorer,” Matthews said. “Coach has done a great job of giving us a lot more freedom and we're just taking advantage of it out there and making plays.”
Stotts might not be a big fan of the step-back, but he understands that the most important thing is seeing that ball go through the net, no matter how it gets there.
And he's not going to stand in the way of that.
“I think one of the toughest things as a coach in the NBA is to coach shot selection,” Stotts said. “Because the players in this league are so talented that they can make tough shots and degree of difficulty shots. For certain players, if they're in the league long enough and they show you that they can do those things on a regular basis, then you as a coach should accept it.”