Wesley Matthews isn’t going to beg the NBA to be one of the six players selected for this year’s Foot Locker Three-Point Contest at the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. In fact, he’s not even going to ask.
But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t accept an invitation. Actually, quite the opposite. Matthews, who is currently fifth in three-pointers made this season with 96, would very much like an opportunity to compete in the three-point contest on Feb. 15.
“It would be an honor to represent my family, friends, Portland,” said Matthews. “But in the meantime, all I’m worried about is helping my team win as many games as I can up until that point.”
One of the reasons the Trail Blazers have been able to win so many games this season is because of Matthews’ three-point shooting. Though he’s cooled off considerably since shooting a ridiculous 52 percent from three in the month of November, Matthews is shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc this season, good enough for 16th in the NBA and better than the likes of Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Matt Bonner, Ryan Anderson and Stephen Curry, all of whom competed in the three-point shootout last
Even factoring in regression, Matthews is still one of the best three-point shooters this season by most any metric.
“That’s not for me to say, not for me to judge,” said Matthews when asked if he deserves to compete in this year’s contest. “I’m not really the type to advertise myself, but if the play speaks for itself, then that’s fine. If not, that’s fine, too.”
He’s shooting above the league average in four of the five three-point “zones” (as seen in the shot chart above) and has been one the best shooters from the corners this season at 43 percent from the right corner and a blistering 47 percent from the left corner. He’s second in the NBA in corner threes made with 39 and tenth in corner three percentage at 45 percent (minimum 20 corner threes made).
Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland.com, has gone so far as to say that Matthews is “arguably the best shooter in the league this year” from the left corner, and since two of the five shooting stations in the three-point contest
are in the corners, one could argue that Matthews’ game is better equipped for the contest than players who shoot from the top of the key or “above the break” (though Matthews shoots a very respectable 40 percent from “above the break as well).
“I think the main thing they’ve got to do well is to make shots,” said Matthews, stating the obvious when asked what make a good three-point contest shooter. “I don’t know how my mechanics stack up. I’ve never been in a three-point contest before. I know I can get my shot off quick, I know I can make shots so I think I’d do alright.”
And since All-Star Weekend is as much about the spectacle as anything else, Matthews says he’d be willing to do what he could to add some intrigue to a contest that doesn’t afford itself to free-styling.
“If I got it going, when I got to the last rack, I think I’d do a stepback,” said Matthews That’s something I would do, just for the hell of it.”
He’s shooting 60 percent on stepback three-pointers this season, so it might not be such a bad idea anyway.
Considering that Portland is first in three-pointer made per game, basically tied with San Antonio for first in team three-point percentage, and second per game in attempts, it’s only fair that at a Trail Blazer be one of the three representatives from the Western Conference in the three-point contest, especially considering their 28-9 record.
“I’d love for either (Matthews) or Damian (Lillard) to be in the three-point shooting contest,” said Terry Stotts, who would be the head coach of the Western Conference All-Star team if the decision were made today. “Our backcourt, both are in the top five in threes made. I think both guys are deserving to be in the three-point shooting contest.”
Lillard, who is first in the NBA in three-pointers made with 120 and seventh in three-point percentage at 44 percent, would certainly be a worthy entry. But he’s already scheduled to play in the Rookie/Sophomore game, has to defend his Taco Bells Skills Challenge crown and could very well end up being selected by NBA head coaches for the Western Conference All-Star roster. Throwing yet another event into that already packed schedule seems like a recipe for a poor showing.
Given that, it stands to reason that Matthews should have the honor of representing his family, friends and Portland in this year’s three-point shooting, even if he won’t campaign on his own behalf.
It’s well known that Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has many interests. While practicing and playing basketball is how he spends the vast majority of his time, the 6-3 guard out of Weber State is an aspiring rapper, a pitchman for the likes of adidas, JBL and Spalding and an ambassador for Special Olympics. And now, he can add “cartoon character” to his list of roles, as he, along with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Indiana’s Paul George voiced characters for an upcoming episode of “We Bare Bears” on Cartoon Network…
Some additional information from the folks at Cartoon Network…
… A special episode of the Cartoon Network Original Series We Bare Bears, featuring Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, premiering Thursday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. (ET/PT). The episode, “Charlie Ball,” features characters voiced by the players. The “All-Star” episodes of Teen Titans Go! and We Bare Bears will replay on Cartoon Network throughout NBA All-Star weekend.
Cartoon Network continues its NBA All-Star 2016 celebration with special segments integrated into some of its leading television shows beginning on Thursday, Feb. 11. Through its popular CN Sayin’ app, Cartoon Network will provide kids with an opportunity to send questions via video submissions to their favorite NBA players. Select questions and responses will then be featured within Cartoon Network’s on-air integrations throughout NBA All-Star.
Sports-themed episodes of Cartoon Network series will be available on VOD and TVE. Highlights from the All-Star special episodes of We Bare Bears and Teen Titans Go! will be on Cartoon Network’s YouTube Channel, the Cartoon Network app, CartoonNetwork.com, as well as VOD.
Not being named to the 2016 All-Star Game was certainly disappointing, but being immortalized in an All-Star themed cartoon seems like a decent consolation prize.
The NBA announced the participants Saturday night events at the 2016 All-Star Weekend in Toronto on TNT Thursday night, with Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum being one of the eight players selected to compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge.
Here’s what McCollum had to say about being selected to participate in the Skills Challenge, his chances of winning the event, not being “cool,” the addition of power forwards and centers and what else he’ll be up to in Toronto…
Your thoughts on being invited to participate in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. You had said you wanted to compete in at least one of the events at All-Star, sounds like someone was listening.
CJ McCollum: “I would have liked to be in the Three-Point Contest too, but I’m definitely thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Skills Challenge. I look forward to trying to bring home another winning trophy like Dame did.”
When did you find out you were selected?
CJ McCollum: “A couple of weeks ago.”
Damian won it twice, I assume he’ll probably give you some pointers. But that’s got to be some pressure too considering he’s going to rib you if you won’t win it.
CJ McCollum: “Nah, no pressure. This is all in good fun, it’s a competitive environment, the juices will be flowing. I’ll definitely get some pointers from him, get a little bit of practice in next week.”
What do you feel like you bring to the Skills Challenge that will put you in a good position to win it?
CJ McCollum: “I’m gonna go hard and try to win. I ain’t going to be cool like a lot of those other guys. Hopefully they continue to try to be cool; I’ll go hard. Get in and out of cuts, try to make crisp passes, knock down the shot and keep it moving.”
You mentioned practice. You going to wait until you get in Toronto or put in some time before that?
CJ McCollum: “I’ll probably practice here next week, get a couple runs in.”
What do you think about the field? They’re letting bigs in this year.
CJ McCollum: “Yeah, I see we got a lot of big men in there. They’re shooting threes now days, they’re becoming more well-rounded. Glad to see them competing in this as well and hopefully a guard brings home the championship, not a big.”
I think a lot of people are picking last year’s winner, Patrick Beverley, or Isaiah Thomas as the favorites. How do you like your chances?
CJ McCollum: “I like my chances. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good chance at winning. Obviously it’s about getting the pass in there, making sure you make the jumpshot and everything else should be easy.”
A lot of guys who come up playing basketball participate in three-point or dunk contests, but have you ever done anything similar to the Skills Challenge?
CJ McCollum: “No, I’ve done three-point competitions before, but never a skills setting like this.”
You mentioned you were planning on going to All-Star Weekend even if you weren’t selected to compete in an event, so what else do you have scheduled for Toronto?
CJ McCollum: “I’ll be at the Players Association meeting on Friday. I have a couple of events with my sponsors, I think I’ll have something with Mountain Dew, a couple NBA Cares events and then I also sit on a panel. And I think I might do a segment for Inside Stuff while I’m there, maybe a community service event as well. But I don’t have my full schedule yet.”
After a practice last week in Tualatin, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, who has been vocal about his desire to be involved at the 2016 All-Star Weekend in Toronto in one way or another, was asked to make the case for why he should be a participant in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, an All-Star Saturday event featuring an obstacle course that tests dribbling, passing and shooting. McCollum’s response?
“Why should I be in the Skills?” said the 6-3 guard in his third season out of Lehigh. “You’re looking at a guy who plays two positions, for starters. Can pass, can shoot, can score. Should I say anymore?”
Apparently not, as it was announced Thursday at the top of TNT’s weekly edition of “Inside The NBA” that McCollum has been selected along with Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, Golden State’s Draymond Green, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, L.A.’s Jordan Clarkson and Houston’s Patrick Beverley to compete at the 2016 Taco Bell Skills Challenge. From the team’s press release…
Through 50 games this season, McCollum ranks second on the team in both scoring (20.9 ppg) and assists (4.3 apg). He is shooting a team-high 39.1% from beyond the three-point line.
McCollum recorded 35 points (14-28 FG), 11 rebounds, nine assists and four steals against Sacramento on Dec. 27, making him the first NBA player to log at least 35 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and four steals in a game since Kevin Garnett on Dec. 10, 2004.
Playing in his third NBA season, McCollum is ranked eighth in the NBA with 116 three-point field goals. He’s also scored 20 or more points on 23 different occasions in 2015-16.
McCollum joins his running buddy Damian Lillard as the only Trail Blazers to ever participate in the Skills Challenge, which was added to the All-Star Weekend festivities in 2003. Lillard won the Skills Challenge in 2013 as a part of his successful quest to compete in all five All-Star Weekend events and then defended his title in 2014 along with Utah guard Trey Burke as a part of the short-lived attempt at making the Skills Challenge a team event, so you can be sure Dame is going to have some pointers for CJ. And Lillard will probably never let McCollum hear the end of it if he doesn’t win, so there’s some extra motivation there as well.
The Taco Bell Skills Challenge is scheduled to take place Saturday, February 13 at 5:30 pm Pacific.