Wesley Matthews spoke with Malik Rose and Jason Goff, hosts of "Off the Dribble" on Sirius XM NBA Radio about the team's last season and what he's been up to this summer.
We bring in Wes Matthews, shooting guard of the Portland Trail Blazers. Wes, how are you doing?
I'm good. How are you doing?
Everything is good. We thank you for joining the show. Malik Rose, Jason Goff here on "Off the Dribble." Before we get into the basketball-specific stuff, you got something cool happening on August 31st in Madison, Wisconsin. Why don't you give us the lowdown.
I'll be putting on a camp for my hometown. It's a free camp, just a day thing to try to give back a little bit -- give my city, my community, a little something that I didn't have growing up. Always been a good experience, great turnout. We got people that have played college basketball and professional basketball overseas working it. It's always been a good time and all the feedback that I've gotten has been tremendous.
I'm a rec-league "chucker," so am I invited to come help out?
Absolutely. I'll come pick you up from the airport.
Wes Matthews Skills Academy provides boys and girls an opportunity to sharpen their basketball skills, learn new techniques, and to personally interact with Wesley. For more information, go to www.driven2greatness.com.
Wes, we were talking about the expectations for this Portland Trail Blazers teamand you've been a guy, as an undrafted rookie, has come into the league, got himself a nice, sizable contract, and has impacted playoff runs and teams. What's the next step now that you guys have realized the target may be on you a little more this year?
The next step is to just continue to get better, learn from what went well with us last year, learn from what didn't. There was a lot of good, but there was also a lot of learning taking place, too. We especially learned a lot going against the champs in the Spurs. We just want to continue to get better, grow off each other, learn off each other, be able to rely off each other more, and see how far that takes us.
You talk about getting better, taking that next step, and going back to this year's playoffs, you guys ended the regular season on a little bit of a high after hitting the bumps a bit with [LaMarcus Aldridge] going down. But in the first round of the playoffs, so many great series, I think by far for me, the best one was the Houston-Portland series. I stayed up late, 1:00 am or 2:00 am every game watching. One thing I think should be required reading or required watching for the kids that attend the Wes Matthews Skills Academy is that series because you went at one of the most prolific scorers in the game. You went at him on the defensive end and the offensive end, and I really thought that made that series so exciting. What was your mindset individually going into that series and the team's mindset going up against the offensive juggernaut in Houston?
We had success against them in the regular season. They also know that it's a completely different season. Once post-season hits, it's a whole different league. We attacked them in that way. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. We knew what they liked to do; we knew that they knew what we liked to do. It was just a matter of who's going to execute better.
As far as me, I'm not going to back down from anybody, any challenge. After being undrafted and overlooked most of my career, that's always been my mentality. Whether you're a prolific scorer or a defender, I'm going to attack you the same way.
I admire the way you competed. Honestly, I was talking to some people during the series, I hadn't seen anybody go at a star like James Harden like that. Usually, guys shy away from going at a guy that can score and has a green light for fear of what he can do back at them. I hadn't seen anybody go at a scorer like that since [Dwayne Wade] went at Baron Davis early in D-Wade's career. Did James Harden say anything to you after the series or had his "respect level" grown for you based on the way you competed against him that series?
No. We didn't really talk throughout much of the series at all. James and I were in the same draft class. I think it's a little different between Baron and D-Wade because Baron was the veteran and Wade was the rookie. James got into the NBA at the same time I did. He's got the green light, he's a great a great scorer, he's a hell of a player, but at the end of the day, he's a basketball player and so am I.
It seems as if Robin Lopez was a huge addition -- one of those under-the-radar additions -- last off season and allowed LaMarcus Aldridge to do some different things in the locker room and also on the court. How did Robin Lopez affect you guys' success last year?
RoLo really changed the complexion of our team. He gave us an identity inside; he filled a void for us. He was always hustling, always working, always unselfish. He allowed us to keep a defensive scheme that didn't have to change because we had a solid rim-protector back there.
And LaMarcus, what did it open up for him, because we've long talked about LaMarcus and finally we saw that talent come to fruition, especially in that playoff series against the Houston Rockets?
LA no longer had to guard the best post offensive player this time. He gets to play his true position at the four. He had someone that he could trust, someone that he could depend on, rely on. LA's a good defender, so now he knows that he's got another one to cover his back. It takes rebounding pressures off of him. LA even attacked the glass even more so this year. I think LA's game just evolved even more just because that's what he does -- he's always working.
This off season, it seemed as if you guys stood pat for the most part. You got Chris Kaman to come aboard, but is it more about the young guys on this team taking that next step? We talked to Will Barton at the summer league and he mentioned you and spoke glowingly about what you've done for him and the kind of example you led, especially with some of those young guys who aren't as notable as some of the other guys in the league. Guys like Joel Freeland, guys like Meyers Leonard, guys like Will Barton. What role will they be counted on and are they ready to step up to that role?
No question they're ready. They've been chomping at the bit to get opportunity and a chance to play. They've got playoff experience now and that's one thing we lacked last year. The year before that, we weren't as good and when they played, they got game experience. Now that they got playoff experience, that's only going to push our team in the right direction even more so.
I read last year during the season you and Nicolas Batum had a little bit of a challenge going on. You were calling out and saying you wanted to play him 1-on-1 in practice. Damian Lillard was getting his dime king on, promoting it and everything. I never heard who won or if you actually played. What happened there?
It never happened, but I'm pretty sure it'll happen some time this training camp.
I don't know why we're not, honestly. I feel that we are, that we should be, but if we're not, that's okay. We're just going to continue to keep our heads down, grind, continue to get better, and work. When we put the ball up against them, we'll see where we stack up.
Terry Stotts has long been a guy that people talked about offensively. What has his tenure been like in Portland for you and how has it been different from some of the other head coaches?
He's a great offensive mind. It's more of a free-flowing system, so I think it's given me a lot more room and a lot more freedom to take shots and to make plays, make reads that I feel are the right ones to make. He trusts his players, and whenever you got a coach that trusts his players, offensively that just frees your game up.
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