Blazers Guard Wesley Matthews Is Mad At Himself, Still Adjusting To New Role

While a lot of the talk this week has surrounded the effectiveness and best ways to use Brandon Roy and Nicolas Batum, another Blazers guard was expressing some frustration at himself and his role on Friday afternoon.

Portland Trail Blazers reserve Wesley Matthews was beating himself up after practice, clearly upset at himself for the quality of his play and the fact that the Blazers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder last night. Matthews scored 13 points, but he played just 19 minutes in the overtime game despite the absence of Rudy Fernandez, as Blazers coach Nate McMillan opted to play his usual starting five down the stretch.

"I suck right now," Matthews said bluntly on Friday afternoon. "I've got a lot of work to do. I don't think I'm really helping the team that much right now."

A quick glance at his game log makes these comments feel like something of a surprise. Matthews is a combined 11-23 from the field over the last two games, better than the 1-4 he put up against Chicago and the 2-7 rough night he had in Los Angeles against the Clippers.

"It's not even about the points," Matthews said today. "I've got to be a better teammate. I've got to move without the ball more. I've got to make open shots. Relieve pressure from these guys. More importantly, I've got to make stops on the other end."

I asked Matthews if perhaps the quality of his looks has something to do with his inconsistency on offense. With time to set up and let fly, Matthews is a knock-down shooter. Late in the shot clock or working to get a shot over a defender or off the dribble, things can get ugly pretty quickly.  Matthews said he didn't think that was an issue. "Not really. I'm just missing. Missing open shots, shots that I've worked on all summer, all preseason, all camp. Shots that these guys have seen me make. I'm just missing them right now."

One factor that Matthews admitted is influencing his success is his variable playing time, something that he is re-adjusting to after starting for the Utah Jazz last season. He has played anywhere from 17 minutes to 30 minutes in a game this year, a fairly large swing when you think about it. "Coming from where I was last year, I knew how many minutes I was going to play, roughly," Matthews told me. "I knew I was going to start the games, I knew when I was going to check back in. But it didn't start out that way [in Utah]. I got to get my mindset back to just being open, not knowing what's going to happen, but being ready. I'm not doing that well enough right now." 

Matthews flatly shot down any talk that his large contract might be making the mental game more difficult by adding pressure to perform. "I don't care about that contract. I feel pressure because we lost two games that we shouldn't have lost."

Ever a competitor, Matthews seemed to be dwelling a bit on the loss to the Thunder. "When we're up the way we were, and we're at home, we've got to get that win." Perhaps the sting of that loss was coloring his self-assessment as well.

In the Toronto Raptors, a team known for its porous defense, the Blazers have an ideal opponent to get things going back in the right direction tomorrow night. Asked if his match-up against the young Raptors wings like DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems might help him rediscover the touch he found against Milwaukee on Tuesday, Matthews sounded optimistic. "Hopefully. Those guys are very athletic. Weems is playing with a lot of energy, gotta keep them off the backboards and make them defend. But offense isn't our issue. We've got to get stops on the defensive end. We gave up 100+ points in our building, you're not going to win many games that way."

Add Matthews to the growing list of questions facing McMillan when it comes to his rotation. 

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter

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