Ask Dwight - Blazers preseason issues & injuries
"Don't put me in a damn box."
We hear you loud and clear, Wesley Matthews. But let's be clear, the Portland Trail Blazers guard is fond of all the labels he has garnered over his NBA tenure such as being a scrapper, a defender, rugged and tough.
Based on those descriptions, if I'm reading it correctly, it basically categorizes Matthews as a hard-nosed defender willing to leave it all out on the court each and every night. That's correct, but there's more to him.
Matthews quoted a line he says his boy Jamal Crawford uses often, "It's deeper than rap." Rap is a genre of music in which a MC speaks, using rhyming lyrics on flow with the beat. It can easily be perceived as just nursery rhymes, but there's often deep-rooted stories being told if paying attention.
To sum it up, there's a bigger picture. That's why Matthews relates so well to that saying.
If all you know is the Wesley Matthews from the tags used above, his body of work truly isn't being appreciated. Let us point out some offensive stats: Aside from his rookie season, he's averaging 14.8 points a game for his career. He shoots well over 80 percent from the charity stripe and he's a 40 percent career three-point shooter.
To sum this up, Matthews can score the ball and do it efficiently. No matter what side of the ball, he's a threat and that's what he wants everybody to know.
"That's the big thing that I wanted to do was be seen as a playmaker," Matthews said to CSNNW.com. "I don't like when people label me. I just don't like labels period. I understand them, you have to describe somebody. I just don't like being described. I don't like being put in a box with a ceiling over me telling me what my potential is because you don't know it. I'm always trying to add to my game and that's the beauty of it."
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts constantly raves about what Matthews brings to the table. He applauds his desire to improve his game, however, he adds that trying out new elements of one's game during a regular season contest is not the time to be experimenting.
"Last year was my first year with him and I thought he filled his role very well," Stotts said. "I like our players to try and build on their game, but at the same time, not at the expense of what they do well. Wes is an outstanding three-point shooter, outstanding defender, he's an outstanding leader. The more playmakers you have on the court, the better it is for the team. But, I think it's important like any player, that they play within themselves and make smart plays and don't try to do things that they are not necessarily good at yet."
If there's been a weak spot in Matthews' game, it is his ball handling, though he has tightened it up over the last few years. He'll even admit to you that there's room to improve in that area and that's why he along with Nicolas Batum, will be working on ball handling drills with assistant coach Nate Tibbetts throughout the course of the season.
Tibbetts was very instrumental in the improved handles of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters during his time on staff with the Cleveland Cavaliers. For Matthews, it's all about putting in the necessary work to become a well-rounded player in order to set an example for his teammates.
But he still wants you to know that even though his all-around has gotten sharper, he's always willing to get down and dirty.
"Everybody on this team knows that I'll run through a brick wall to save a ball from going out of bounds to give us a chance to win the game," he said. "Everything I talk, I preach myself. I just try to hold myself accountable so I can hold other people accountable and I think other people see that. In this league, you have to improve in all facets of your game and that's what I'm going to continue to do."
On Stotts giving him freedom: "I feel like for the most part in a positive way, I've been taken for granted because I am going to do everything. I'm going to play hard. I'm going to do everything that needs to get done. Coaches don't have to run plays for me and I'll still give you 15 a night. In that sense, I've never had a coach say 'Wesley, go get us a bucket. Make a play for us.' It hasn't been told, but he has given me the freedom in preseason games in the offense.
Can you get better?: "I can get a lot better. I'm not in my prime yet. In my mind, I'm still two years out of it. So, I'm excited about to it."
Are you a leader?: "I don't really look at that because I didn't pay attention to that as a rookie. I still played the same way. I was vocal with true vets on the team and earned their respect. I felt like I was a veteran after All-Star break."
Do you have to be more vocal with this young team?: "Maybe. Probably. I just got to continue to be vocal in the right spots. You don't want to be overly vocal because people get sick of hearing your voice."
Concerned about your preseason offensive game?: "I'm not worried about my offense. I'm not worried about that at all. That's the last thing on my mind. I know I can score. I know what I can do. I know I'm going to be able to space the court. I know I'll have to make plays in the paint. I know all that."