Wes Matthews went through his first full-contact work as a member of the Dallas Mavs on Monday, an extremely positive sign as he rehabs from his torn left Achilles injury.
“It felt really good,” Matthews said. “I need that. I’ve been accelerating at a good rate and the rate that I thought I would be. And it was good to get out there with the guys and compete, get hit, take hits and keep moving.''
Added coach Rick Carlisle: “He did extremely well, which is a great sign.’'
Matthews played just 60 games for Portland last year before sustaining the injury and then signing with Dallas as a big-money ($70 mil for four years because a deal is a deal) free agent. The six-year veteran — nicknamed “Ironman’’ with the Blazers for the sort of toughness and determination (and "Basketball Soul'') he’s shown in his time here — is generally considered to have a shot at being back to 100 percent and ready to play by December.
But Matthews himself has never conceded that.
"I wasn’t worried about this,’’ he said about this full-speed, scrimmage-level debut, expressing the same confidence that allows him to state hopefully that he’s back on the court well before December. I knew that I could do this. But it’s still a great feeling to be able to do it.”
Matthews averaged 15.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals last season for Portland. He shot 44.8 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from the arc. Combine that with his assertive and aggressive perimeter defense and a healthy Matthews can be the sort of 3-and-D standout Dallas has long coveted.
“When he’s involved in the live parts of practice, you see how he’s going to fit in with the team,’’ Carlisle said of the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder. "He played well. He’s very good defensively, he hits open shots, he’s going to be a leader on our team, and he brings a toughness and a grit. He’s going to help us in many ways.”
Matthews isn’t ready for Tuesday's 7 p.m. exhibition game against OKC at Tulsa, of course. (Nor are a host of other members of the 0-2 Mavs; for reason of rest or injury, Dirk, Deron, McGee, Felton and Parsons will miss and won’t even travel). Nor is he necessarily ready for Opening Night in Phoenix on Oct. 28.
“Obviously I’m not me yet,’’ Matthews said. “But that will come. That will come quickly. … It was a good first showing, and I’m excited for the next one.”