After practice on Tuesday, Trail Blazers starting guard Wesley Matthews discussed his preparation for the upcoming season, what his role is on the team, his thought on being described as a “3-and-D” player, getting “out of that box”, changes in defensive philosophies, a new emphasis on accountability and why he’s “gonna play my ass off as a Trail Blazer.”
You’ve talked a little about scaling back your workout regiment. How was this summer different for you?
Wesley Matthews: I had surgery, I had a PRP injection so I was forced to rehab. I was forced to not do anything for about a month and a half span that I usually would have been doing stuff.
Has that changed the way you’ve approached training camp?
Wesley Matthews: About the same thing. A lot of high reps, a lot of volume. Just trying to work myself back in shape, back into game speed.
You’re in your fifth year now. How have you changed as a person since coming into the league?
Wesley Matthews: Just kind of smarter. Just smarter about everything around me, everything that has to do with basketball, the business of basketball and everything that basketball brings.
What do you feel like your role is on this team this year?
Wesley Matthews: I don’t know. I’m sure my role is to defend, is to lead in some magnitude, but I’m always looking to redefine my role. I’ve never been the type to just let someone tell me what my role is and be content and complacent with that.
So you’re looking to flesh-out your role, rather than having it dictated to you.
Wesley Matthews: Yeah. I mean, my role is everything, do everything. Some nights I’m going to lead this team in scoring, some nights I’m not. Some nights I’m going to lead this team in steals, sometimes I might not. Some night lead the team in assists, some nights I might not. My role is to do everything and do everything well.
Is it important for teams to have players who fit specific roles or is that overblown?
Wesley Matthews: I think you have to have roles, but you also have to have people that can excel out of that role. Have a role but also do other things. That’s when teams excel.
Some would consider you a “three-and-D” players, as in, a wing player who shoots a good percentage from the three-point line and plays tough defense. What do you think about being categorized like that?
Wesley Matthews: I mean, that’s cool if that’s what they want to peg me as but I’m not going to read that and then that’s (all) I’m gonna do. Can I shoot threes? Yes. Can I play defense? Yes. Can I get to the basket? Yes. Can I rebound? Yes. Can I set people up? Yes. And that’s how I’m going to play. As soon as I start trying to get one or two dimensional, my worth goes down.
That makes sense. The team has more talent than last year, but it’s not like there’s so much talent that everyone can just “stay in their lane.”
Wesley Matthews: I mean, you’ve got to get out of that box. We’ve got to play basketball. Coach Stotts allows us to do that, our teammates allow you to do that. And that’s just what you’ve got to do. All your preparation all summer leads up this situation where, you know, everything’s not scripted. You can stage everything you want (in practice) but as soon as you get in the game, those guys on the other team, they train just like you do. The shot that you’re trying to draw up to get a wide open three might not be there.
The team brought in players this offseason that either play your position or have similar skills to your own, but Stotts has been steadfast in saying you’re the starter. Do you consider it a competition?
Wesley Matthews: Everything is a competition. Life’s a competition. I never want to back down from competition or shy away from it. It’s only gonna make me better, I’m only going to make them better.
I don’t know what my future holds here. I don’t look at any of that. Some people do; I’m not that kind of person. I’m here, I’m a Trail Blazer and I’m gonna play my ass off as a Trail Blazer.
Stotts has talked about changes some of the philosophies and schemes on defense. Has that changed the way you play defense?
Wesley Matthews: We’re covering pick and rolls differently, putting more emphasis on protecting the paint, protecting the rim and protecting the three-point line, try to get out of rotations. Basically be more accountable, hold yourself more accountable. Two people are in the pick and roll on offense so two people should be able to guard the pick and roll on defense.
You mentioned accountability, which is something Stotts has talked about numerous times during training camp. What does being more accountable mean for a player? What does that look like?
Wesley Matthews: You’ve got to be a professional. You’ve got to take criticism, you’ve got to make sure that your mind and body is ready to work every single day. You’ve got to make sure that you get your work done so that you can be prepared for whatever it is that is thrown at you the next day. And to make sure that you’ve taken care of everything that you can in your power so that you can make sure other people are held accountable.
You’ve been on the team a while now and played for three different coaches in that span. Was that something that was missing in the past?
Wesley Matthews: Nah, I think our personnel is just different. My first year here we had vets. B.Roy was here, (Marcus) Camby was here, Andre Miller was here, Joel Przybilla was here. They’ve been in the league just as long as some of the coaches. The next year with Gerald (Wallace) and Jamal (Crawford) and Ray (Felton), those guys had been around the league as well. Unless you completely harp on it right away, it’s tough to get that accountability.
With the young team that we had last year and this year, I think it’s easier because they don’t know any better. In college, you’ve got to be on time. There’s consequences for everything in college. There’s consequences in the NBA as well, but they’re different. Consequences are more your body in college. Here, you’re held to a professional standard. You come late to work, you get docked pay. You come late to practice, you get a fine. You don’t show up, you don’t play. That kind of thing.