Houston Rockets v Portland Trail Blazers

Practice Notes: Matthews Returns, Freeland Rises

The Portland Trail Blazers went through a light practice on Friday after finishing off their preseason schedule with a 90-74 victory against the Warriors in Oakland. A few items of note …

· Wesley Matthews, who missed Thursday’s game after experiencing an irregular heartbeat during practice on Wednesday, was medically cleared to return to practice.

“It wasn’t very settling,” deadpanned Matthews. “I didn’t know what it was, I was confused. I was worried because we do our stress echos and we do all of our heart stuff and testing during our physicals and that was three weeks ago and everything was fine, everything was normal. So something that just happened out of nowhere. Right away my mind went to fear but now, after talking to the specialist and talking to the doctor, everybody is more on line of that it was just a fluke.”

Matthews said he went through most of Wednesday’s practice without issue, but he knew something was amiss when he couldn’t get his heart to return to its normal rhythm during a break in practice.

“We were shooting free throws and all the sudden I just felt my heart racing, like it was trying to jump out of my chest,” said Matthews. “I kept playing for a little bit and then I pulled myself out. Then it was just a whirlwind of events after that.”

That whirlwind included Matthews being whisked from the practice facility to the hospital where his heart was put back into rhythm by using a defibrillator similar to what you’ve surely seen on any number of television hospital dramas. He said the doctors weren’t sure why he experienced the irregularity, but said a combination of stress, fatigue and, specifically, difficulty sleeping might have had something to do with it.

“We’re going to definitely monitor, we’re going to keep tabs on it but it’s basically how I feel,” said Matthews. “I’m going to get a heart monitor later today, just track it and make sure everything is okay. I’m going to go see a sleep specialist. I’m going to get hooked up with one of those chambers to make sure I can sleep. Make sure we’re covering all our bases.”

· After Joel Freeland played the majority of minutes at backup center in Thursday night’s game, signaling that he had won the role of backup center over Meyers Leonard, many in the media wanted to know how and why that decision was made. According to Stotts, it was simply that Freeland has performed better in the preseason than Leonard.

“Joel has earned his minutes,” said Stotts. “We need defense from that position. The focus that we’ve put on defense as a team has paid off so far. Joel has earned it. He’s had an impact on the game defensively, he’s had a really good summer. It’s nothing against Meyers. I think Meyers has improved. He’s much better than he was last year, he’s going to continue to get better, but at this point, Joel has earned it.”

Stotts also pointed out that just because he’s narrowed his rotation down going into the start of the regular season, that in no way means Leonard won’t have an opportunity to fight for more minutes as the season progresses.

“It’s a long season, 82 games, opportunities happen,” said Stotts. “He’ll get an opportunity, he just needs to keep working. Things happen throughout the season and when his opportunity comes, when his number is called, he has to be ready.”